Growth is here and more is coming. Chamber members learned what’s good and not-so-good about that fact Tuesday from leaders at the Central Midlands Council of Governments.
“There’s going to be substantial growth here,” Executive Director Ben Mauldin said at the November breakfast meeting. His organization predicts 450,000 new people will move into the Central Midlands region—Fairfield, Lexington, Newberry, and Richland counties—by 2040.
Greater Lexington’s predicted population for 2040 is 140,360. “That means a lot of homes and infrastructure,” Mauldin said. Greater Lexington’s current population is 87,104.
In the past 18 months, Lexington led the region for permits of single family homes, with 1,228 permits issued. Northeast Richland County, usually neck and neck with Lexington in terms of growth, issued 719 single family residential permits, less than previously.
“Blythewood is going great guns with 689,” reported Andrew Simmons, information services manager. The West Metro area issued 184 single family permits, least of the municipalities in Lexington and Richland counties.
Lexington follows Harbison, the Village at Sandhills, and Forest Drive as the region’s fourth largest retail submarket, with 2.5 million square feet of retail space. “Lexington’s an attractive place to come for business,” Simmons said, adding that Lexington’s 5.2 percent vacant space in January 2013 made it the lowest in the area.
Lexington also has the third smallest office market in the metro area, with 714,105 square feet of leasable space.
Growth means challenges lie ahead. Roads will be strained, development could sprawl, and more infrastructure will be required. Money will be necessary to handle those challenges, Simmons said. Mass transit isn’t viable for the region, he added, because “development patterns aren’t dense enough to support it.”
On the positive side, citizens should realize:
- Residential growth adds to the tax base
- Lexington’s apartment vacancy rate is the region’s lowest, at 3.6 percent
- Home sales increased by 19.4 percent between January 2012 and January 2013, according to the SC Realtors Association
- Gross retail sales are up 12.4 percent, according to the SC Department of Revenue
- Hospitality tax revenues in the county are up 10.8 percent, according to the SC Department of Revenue
- Tourism-related expenditures increased 8.9 percent in Lexington County in Fiscal Year 2012/13
- Airport traffic is up 1.9 percent
- Unemployment rates are falling across the region
A native of Bradford, England, Simmons said he’s noticed major changes in Lexington County since he moved to West Columbia in 1997. “More people worked outside the county,” he recalled. “That started to change in 2000 and more in 2008. Now, a vast number of people (69, 903) live and work in Lexington County. That’s good.”
The November breakfast meeting was sponsored by SAFE Federal Credit Union.