Data provided by the York County Economic Development staff. Further information gathered from research and meetings.
- Demographic and Income Profile
- Market Profile
- Restaurant Market Potential
- Retail Market Potential
- Retail Marketplace Profile
- Tapestry Segmentation Area Profile
The two most obvious themes in the data is that York is growing, yet York is poor. Growth is undeniable, and it is a force that will significantly affect York in one way or the other. Think about if you have a garden, and you see water coming. If you route that water strategically, then you can have a greater garden for it. If you don’t do anything, the water will roll right over your beloved plot and do as much damage as good. York already has lagging infrastructure and not much budget to do much about it (though they are newly innovative in how they are approaching such issues). York is also strikingly segregated and is almost half minority in population. The city has pockets of relative affluence, a low median income, and high rates of poverty.
On the economic upside, there is significantly more wealth within a twenty-minute drive East. And obviously much greater wealth within forty-minutes, due to Charlotte (not shown in these reports). Therefore, York must draw participants and consumers from a 20 to 40 minute drive to be economically successful (see section on negative Retail Gap below). York must also have a balanced property tax base to be successful. Thus, investing in making York a place where people want to live is not only what will improve all of our lives, but it is what will make us economically successful in the process.
Retail / Restaurant
The Retail Marketplace Profile shows us that the Median Disposable Income goes up from $32k to $48k when you widen from a five-minute drive radius to a twenty-minute drive radius.
Also, you can see the negative Retail Gap in the data. This shows that there is more supply in downtown York than there is demand (even with the small supply that we have). This means that the population around downtown can’t support the retail and restaurants that are currently there, much less new ones. The downtown has to attract visitors from 10 and 20 minutes away to survive. If the downtown can do this (as that’s what good downtowns do), then it is a huge boon to the city as those are all hospitality tax dollars from people who don’t have residences in the city limits. In other words, they come, they give us their money, and they go home.
But downtown York is not currently enough of a destination (does not have a large enough draw) to support businesses that are not themselves each a destination (something unique that people will drive 20 minutes for). That is why we seem to be stuck in the two-steps-forward, two-steps-back reality in the downtown. Business owners open with passion in their eyes, and then they have to close when their business is not enough of a destination on its own to bring in the consumers that will support it. Those businesses that are very niche and have good internet sales can make it, but most businesses will struggle. And that reality is ultimately a downward spiral, as infrastructure decays with no money to invest in it. The path to success for downtown is for the downtown itself to be the destination, the draw. The downtown and all of its parts (the businesses, the open space, the history, the architecture, the arts, the events, etc.) – that is the destination. Then the businesses can cater to those visitors as well as to locals. There are many initiatives that can contribute to the downtown being a destination, including arts and culture as well as professional clustering, and of course food and beverage.
As far as restaurants on the bypass, franchises choose places with a positive Retail Gap because it means that the residents have plenty of money and are currently having to drive somewhere else to eat. Think about Newport before the Walmart / Charandas / Empire / HWY 55 / etc. There were neighborhoods there full of people and their disposable income, but there were no restaurants and retail. Those people had to drive out to Cherry road for a chain restaurant and to York for the Walmart. It wasn’t enough money for a national chain restaurant to want to come there, but instead it was perfect for the regional and local chains – which add more community character than national chains anyway.
The point is that it was a no-brainer for a regional chain restaurant to open in Newport due to the positive Retail Gap. But with a negative Retail Gap, you have to draw people from 10 to 20 minutes away. Currently, even the bypass has too much negative Retail Gap to support high volume regional chain restaurants, unless those restaurants were part of a larger destination. The area currently can’t even draw the higher quality fast food. But if there was a mixed-use, master-planned development on the bypass at Cooperative Way, that development could be both the destination for the draw and provide a positive Retail Gap because of who would live in such a community. That’s why mixed-use developments do so well. They are both. For example, a mixed-use development that had an agri-lifestyle, agri-commerce, agri-tourism theme could be a powerful draw (by being a tourist and commercial destination) and could create a positive Retail Gap microcosm by recruiting the affluent to live there. Such a vision/plan could easily have us at the table with a list of local and regional chain restaurants.
It is commonly said by city, county, and state folks that our tax balance is out of whack. It is commonly pointed out that we are one of the lowest in the nation in residential property taxes and among the very highest in industrial taxes.
It is more locally common to hear the formula that for every $1 in residential property taxes collected, we spend $1.35 in services. That means we actually lose money on every dollar we collect – upside down on the cost of service. Yet, for every $1 we collect in industrial property taxes we pay back about 35 cents. So, the city takes a large margin from those dollars and invests it into the community. These taxes effectively subsidize the residential.
So, residential property taxes at 4% are upside down, commercial property taxes at 6% may be above break even, and industrial property taxes at 11.5% is where we make the money to fund the public sector’s investment in the community.
Our tax laws unfortunately make industrial property development (specifically manufacturing) both critical and dis-incentivized at the same time. It’s critical because we have to have it for our financial viability (because it subsidizes the residential taxes). Yet, it is dis-incentivized because it’s so expensive from the perspective of the business paying these high tax rates that they don’t want to come here to York County because of it.
York County’s company recruitment and relocation competition is made up of the other counties in the Charlotte marketplace. Traditionally, companies would look to bring their business to Charlotte, then they would look around Charlotte for the best location. That’s what puts York County in play. The other counties are in North Carolina, and they do not have the high industrial property taxes that we do in South Carolina. This gives our relocation competitors a huge advantage out of the gate.
The county and the city have dealt with this disadvantage by introducing a list of tools (such as fee in lieu of tax) that works with any one business looking to relocate and reduces their contribution in different ways to try and level the playing field with other Charlotte-market areas looking to recruit this industry. The problem with that, of course, is that we need these taxes. That’s why we want the businesses in the first place (that and the jobs). So, waving the tax revenue doesn’t do us much good.
Participate in Conversation for Change
There are lots of conversations about changing the tax situation in the state. And there are lots of conversations about how the current system is a pending doom. The schools are particularly hard hit, due to changes made with Act 388 – which escalated the tax imbalance issue by many times over.
What if we used York as a stage for a tax reform conversation. This could be through presentations at the Sylvia Theater and McCelvey, or some types of forums or something. This could go well with the identity that we want to build around government offices and facilities being in York. We could show off the coming Law Park and get York some marketing attention that’s based on history and governance and law.
Apply Reality to Our Strategy
The tax situation will not change immediately, so we have to work with what we’ve got. We must be strategic about how we balance property development between residential, commercial, and industrial. We also must be strategic about how we use tax incentives and not give away that which we were after in the first place. We may want to do a tax balance study that will give us our existing, our breakevens, and our ideal mix of these three property tax sources.
As stated above, the downtown must be a destination for it to be successful. For it to be a destination, it must be walkable. Walkability though is bigger than that. Walkability is an idea that a place must be walkable to be commerce and culture friendly, as well as supportive of its citizens basic needs.
Walk Score is a measure the walkability of a place assessed by rating the distance to amenities as well as the ease, safety, and pleasantness of walking to them. It’s a simple way to compare downtowns in their placemaking. Below are the walk scores of some downtowns in North and South Carolina in order to draw comparisons to York. The data below gathered from WalkScore.com.
Downtown Scores for
- York is growing.
- York has high poverty, lagging infrastructure, and limited resources.
- York is historically and still mostly racially, ethnically, and economically segregated.
- York lacks safe & healthy connectivity for walking, biking, and driving.
- York lacks amenities for more affluent consumers.
- York downtown can have its lively moments, but it lacks commercial viability.
- York has a negative Retail Gap and must draw people from outside of its city limits to support its retail/restaurant businesses.
- York faces complex, multi-jurisdictional issues for economic success.
- York has lacked a shared community vision and direction.
- York is growing.
- Positive change is already happening in York at the city level.
- Many positive things are happening in all kinds of private, community, and/or nonprofit initiatives in arts, history, agri-commerce, downtown, health, education, leadership, and more.
- The citizens of York have much pride and love for the city.
- There is open interest in public dialogue on positive change and working together.
- There are a list of projects already underway and unfolding that will have significant impact on the city.
- The county will likely be very supportive of York’s success.
- Rock Hill will likely be a supportive partner to York’s success.
- There is plenty of money to be attracted within a 20-mile drive of York’s center.