According to U.S. census data, from 2014 to 2019 the City of Charleston shrunk from 50,133 residents to 46,536 residents.

This put the city at the top of the “Fastest Shrinking Small Cities” list by Advisorsmith, a business insurance company.

Advisorsmith CEO Adrian Mak says businesses look at population growth when deciding whether to move there.

“We did find that Charleston had the greatest rate of shrinkage for small cities in the country and by quite a large margin,” he said.

Charleston’s -1.5 % annual growth rate is bigger than cities like Albany, Georgia, and Decatur, Illinois who followed Charleston in second and third place.

But the City of Charleston says things are now looking up.

“Even with the pandemic, things are looking up, and nobody questions that we’re going through a tough time,” said Charleston’s economic development director Lawrence Malone.

Malone points to construction projects underway in downtown, like the public library, The Atlas building, and work on Summers Street.

Over the next two years, Malone says there will be $100 million in capital investment in the downtown area, as the city looks to attract younger people and teleworkers with better broadband capabilities and more downtown living opportunities.

“We believe that the allure of the big, big cities like New York and San Francisco are starting to not be as attractive because of what’s been going on with the pandemic, so we’re actively working on trying to do some campaigns,” Malone said.

With Charleston’s outdoors and low cost of living, which is 22% below the national average, Malone says Charleston has a lot to offer.

“It’s going to be a long-term strategy to get the population to resume growing and maybe get back to where we were but we’re focused on each and every day,” he said.