By Allyson Bird
The Post and Courier
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
When Forbes magazine ranked Charleston among the top 10 smartest cities in the world, it gave Mayor Joe Riley a reason to remind residents how pretty the city sits as it looks toward the economic future.
Standing before a choppy harbor at the Maritime Center on Tuesday, he listed some of Charleston's and the greater area's recent achievements, including landing the second Boeing 787 Dreamliner factory, signing a deal to keep shipping giant Maersk Line calling at the port and scoring a host of top destination rankings in national travel publications.
Riley also highlighted some of the knowledge-based industry developments, including the soon-to-open Innovation Center that will bring biotechnology research to upper Meeting Street, and the Charleston Digital Corridor initiative, which attracted a cluster of technology and life-sciences businesses to East Bay and Calhoun streets.
Squeezing in time between meeting with City Council members and finalizing the budget for Tuesday night's meeting, Riley said he wanted to explain the greater implications of the Forbes ranking.
"This is a reflection of our being poised to be a leader in the new economy," he said.
Riley praised residents for their decisions along the way. Waterfront Park, he said, could be a gated community but instead serves as one of the most iconic elements of Charleston's modern image. He described the revitalized King Street as "a national marvel."
Alluding to the economic recession, Riley said, "Part of any untoward event is the psychology of it. I think this just gives us reason to feel better and more optimistic about our future, and I think it's important for people to hear that."
Global travel guide Lonely Planet names Charleston one of the top 10 places in the world to see, and Conde Nast Traveler calls it the No. 2 city in the U.S. to visit.
The Holy City took top honors at the U.S. Conference of Mayors this year as one of America's "most livable cities," and Forbes lists Charleston among its top 10 "best cities for technology jobs" and among its top 25 "strongest housing markets."
As for the smartest-cities ranking, Charleston took the No. 8 spot, with Singapore and Hong Kong ranked first and second, respectively. The top U.S. ranking, at No. 6, went to Seattle, Boeing's historical home base and the prime contender for the second Dreamliner assembly line.
The Forbes piece highlights the significance of the Lowcountry stealing that deal from Washington state. It reads: "Once an industrial backwater, Charleston now seems poised to emerge as a major aerospace center."