The Charleston Region’s Creative Economy

This research study, which was completed in May 2010 by Regional Technology Strategies (RTS), a North Carolina-based consulting firm and funded by a partnership of Charleston’s Creative Parliament, New Carolina and CRDA, quantifies the impact of the creative economy as a whole and its individual sub-clusters on the 3-county Charleston region.

For the purposes of the study, RTS uses the term “creative” in a way that directly rather than indirectly connects it to economic outcomes.   The term “creative enterprises” is used to describe firms that produce and/or distribute products and services for which the aesthetic, intellectual, and emotional engagement of the consumer represents the chief component of value for those goods and services in the marketplace. This definition moves beyond what might be traditionally thought of as the “arts” to include such design-intensive activities as architecture, interactive design, and software design.

Impact of the Creative Economy – Charleston MSA

All told, the entities that make up Charleston’s creative economy have a profound impact on the 3-county region:

  • The creative workforce in the Charleston MSA totaled 27,315 workers in 2008 (the last year for which data was available).  This total accounts for 6.7% of the region’s total workforce.
  • In terms of employment, the Creative Economy cluster (which includes only creative and non-creative workers employed in creative industries and thus does not include creative workers employed in non-creative enterprises) is one of the top five largest employers in the Charleston MSA economy, including 18,698 jobs in 2008.
  • Gross sales associated with creative industries in the Charleston MSA exceeded $1.4 billion in 2009, representing approximately 3% of all sales generated in the regional economy.  In addition, estimated tax revenue generated by creative businesses in the 3-county Charleston region was more than $21 million in 2009.
  • Creative enterprises in the Charleston MSA had an overall economic impact of at least $474 million paid to workers in earnings in 2009. Earnings in this context refer to wages, salaries, profits, benefits, and other compensation paid to workers, which is likely to be spent chiefly within the region and to have a direct impact upon the local economy.
  • Creative occupations across all industries in the Charleston MSA paid an average hourly wage of $18.35, significantly higher than the $17.17 average hourly wage for all jobs in the region.  Average hourly wages by creative industry subcategory ranged from a low of $13/hour for artists to $23/hour for designers.