Charleston West Virginia Economic Development

Discussions on Economic and Community Development in West Virginia and the Charleston MSA as well as issues of the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Study says cost of living in Charleston area a bargain

With the price of everything seemingly going up, you might think Charleston is an expensive place to live.

Not so, according to a quarterly survey that compares cost-of-living differences among urban areas.

About 300 communities - including Charleston and Morgantown - participate in the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, which is produced by the Council for Community and Economic Research. The council was created in 1961 to promote excellence in community and economic research.
Jeri Adkins, a senior vice president at the Charleston Area Alliance, surveys products and services for the Charleston component of the index while Amy Higginbotham, an economist at West Virginia University's Bureau of Business & Economic Research, surveys products and services for the Morgantown component.

Adkins, Higginbotham and their counterparts regularly record a variety of grocery, clothing, housing and other prices. The items are carefully chosen to reflect the different categories of consumer expenditures. Weights assigned to relative costs are based on federal government survey data on expenditure patterns for mid-management households. All items are priced in each place at a specified time and according to standardized specifications.

The index average for all participating places equals 100. Each participant's index is read as a percentage of the average for all places.

The index shows that living in Charleston is a bargain.

Adkins said, "When we were putting together a marketing brochure about eight years ago, we highlighted our composite index, which has always been around 90 to 92 percent. It varies a point or two depending on how gas prices have been and when there are sales on the items we are pricing. But our utility costs are consistently on the lower range of the national average, which keeps us in the low 90 percentile. It's a very important economic development tool for us, having such low utility costs."

Charleston Area Alliance President Matt Ballard said, "A lower cost of living - everything from housing to clothing to food - is something that the Alliance touts to prospective businesses who are looking to our area for an expansion or relocation."

Ballard said buying power correlates to the cost of living. "Low cost of living in an area means that you have a proportionally higher buying power in that area," he said.


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