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krazeeboi

Tiers of SC cities

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I believe we are in agreement that SC's "Big Three," Columbia, Charleston, and Greenville, belong in tier 1.

From tier 2 on is where it gets iffy. I would definitely say Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, and North Charleston (?). Maybe Hilton Head could fit here as well.

Tier 3: Florence, Sumter, Orangeburg, Anderson, Greenwood, Aiken, Rock Hill, Mount Pleasant

Tier 4: Georgetown, Beaufort, Lexington, Conway, Summerville, etc.

What do you guys think?

Also, it would seem as though the tier 3 cities (and downward) are struggling with various issues which hinder them from progressing primarily economically. What can be done to reverse this?

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I think you got it exactly how I would do it. Just to break down my rationalization of your picks:

Tier 1: The big 3

Tier 2: Major business centers (I'd put HH in Tier 3)

Tier 3: Medium sized primary towns (Florence, Sumter, Orangeburg, Anderson, Greenwood, Aiken, HH) and large suburbs (Rock Hill, Mount Pleasant, possible Goose Creek).

Tier 4: Small primary towns (Georgetown, Beaufort, Camden) and medium suburbs (Lexington, Irmo, Summerville, North Augusta, Fort Mill, etc)

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Fun thing to do that I've played around with since the 80's!

Tier One - primary urban centers

Greenville

Columbia

Charleston

Tier Two - subregional centers & secondary / satelite cities

Myrtle Beach

Florence

Sumter

Greenwood

Orangeburg

Spartanburg

Rock Hill

North Charleston

Anderson

Tier Three - minor subregional towns / suburbs

Mount Pleasant

Hilton Head

Beaufort

Georgetown

Union

Lancaster

West Columbia

Irmo

Gafney

Clemson

Aiken

N Augusta

.... several more

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IMO, suburbs count with their main municipality. A city is more than its core municipality, and we all know that applies doubly so in SC (annexation laws). So it is more of a metro/micro or UA area comparison to me.

That said, I see the tiers like this:

Tier 1

Columbia

Charleston

Greenivlle

Tier 2

Spartanburg

Myrtle Beach

Tier 3

Florence

Anderson

Rock Hill

Hilton Head

Tier 4

Aiken

Sumter

Orangeburg

Tier 5

smaller places the likes of:

Georgetown

Chester

Lancaster

Walterboro

Beaufort

Greenwood

Abbeville

Hartsville

Marion

Union

Newberry

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I think you need to establish some criteria for ranking the cities. If it is just population, then go to the US census site and you are done. Not much to talk about. We've posted population lists here many times.

If you did it in terms of National Recognition then the list looks like this.

Tier 1

Myrtle Beach

Tier 2

Charleston (not tier 1 because of the CH factor)

Columbia (flag controversy)

Tier 3

Rest of the state

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I think you need to establish some criteria for ranking the cities.  If it is just population, then go to the US census site and you are done.  Not much to talk about.  We've posted population lists here many times. 

If you did it in terms of National Recognition then the list looks like this. 

Tier 1

Myrtle Beach

Tier 2

Charleston (not tier 1 because of the CH factor)

Columbia (flag controversy)

Tier 3

Rest of the state

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

:huh:

Whoa, wait a sec. What is the CH factor? I think Charleston has more national recognition than MB, especially international recognition. Charleston should be included in Tier 1 if you're thinking in terms of national recognition.

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Well actually many people confuse Charleston SC, Charleston WVA, Charlottesville Va, and Charlotte NC. The average person is more ignorant of this than you would think.

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IMO, suburbs count with their main municipality. A city is more than its core municipality, and we all know that applies doubly so in SC (annexation laws). So it is more of a metro/micro or UA area comparison to me.

That said, I see the tiers like this:

Tier 1

Columbia

Charleston

Greenivlle

Tier 2

Spartanburg

Myrtle Beach

Tier 3

Florence

Anderson

Rock Hill

Hilton Head

Tier 4

Aiken

Sumter

Orangeburg...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree completely with Spartan; you shouldn't include suburban towns separately when comparing true SC urban cities. My tier list would be like his except for 1 thing. I think that I would add Greenwood to Tier 4 because it is very similar in nature to the other cities.

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Well actually many people confuse Charleston SC, Charleston WVA, Charlottesville Va, and Charlotte NC.  The average person is more ignorant of this than you would think.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

^_^ Ahh, I see. You've got a point there. You know, the main reasons for this confusion involve the 2 Charlestons and Charlotte. Chas WV is known because it is the capital of the state, Chas SC is known for its historical significance and it is the biggest of all the Charlestons, and Charlotte is spelled similarly and is the biggest city in the Carolinas.

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I think you need to establish some criteria for ranking the cities.  If it is just population, then go to the US census site and you are done.  Not much to talk about.  We've posted population lists here many times. 

If you did it in terms of National Recognition then the list looks like this. 

Tier 1

Myrtle Beach

Tier 2

Charleston (not tier 1 because of the CH factor)

Columbia (flag controversy)

Tier 3

Rest of the state

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Astute observation monsoon, but I would put Charleston in Tier 2 by itself, then Columbia in Tier 3, and the rest of the state in Tier 4.

In addition to the CH factor, many people view the Carolinas as one state, not two, once you leave the Southeast.

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I would tend to think of suburbs as just extensions of their central cities for the purposes of this question. I saw a geography textbook on SC a number of years ago that tried to define three tiers of "regional centers" for SC. The idea was to use newspaper subscription figures - so basically assuming that a town with a large newspaper distribution around the surrounding areas would be a "regional center" as such. I cannot remember the rankings, but they were more or less what Krazeeboi started with, except Beaufort was more in what would be the third tier. Also, this study including border cities whose influence comes into SC (e.g., Charlotte, August, and Savannah). These border cities are regional centers for parts of SC as well. I think the newspaper distribution idea works pretty well. So, Columbia's newspaper would dominate subscriptions in Richland, Lexington, northern Calhoun, Newberry, Fairfield, and Kershaw counties. Sumter's newspaper would dominate Sumter, Clarendon, and Lee Counties. Orangeburg's newspaper would dominate Orangeburg, southern Calhoun, Bamberg, and northern Dorchester Counties. And so forth.

I like the idea because it tries to define importance based on a city's role in the surrounding area rather than population alone. For example, Florence is probably a more important regional center than its population would indicate because its hinterlands are further away from the first tier locations like Columbia, Charleston, and Greenville than say Sumter. So while Florence and Sumter may be similiar in terms of population stats, I would argue that Florence has more regional significance and probably more amenities and infrastructure since it serves a larger hinterlands area (for example, compare the medical infrastructure between the two cities).

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I only brought up the national recognition example to point out that if you really want to have a good discussion on this, then a good criteria for making that decision should be decided upon. I wouldn't even begin to suggest that Myrtle Beach is the most important city in the state.

However I think no matter what the criteria, you are always going to end up with the same 5 areas at the top of the heap. Columbia, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Rock Hill, and Greenville/Spartanburg. There is a very big disparity in population, income, education levels, lifestyle, etc between these 5 places and the rest of SC. The end result is that we will end up comparing those 5 parts of the state and the rest wont be relevan't in a discussion on tiers of cities.

Now it might be interesting to discuss the cities that remain without including those 5.

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Well, I was thinking in terms of population, regional influence, and statewide importance/recognition.

I think my original list captures that pretty well; the only revision I'd probably make is with the entire Charleston-N. Charleston-Mount Pleasant-Summerville area and have it count for one area instead of four separate ones. But that gets interesting, at least in Summerville's case, since the city itself exerts a significant influence on Dorchester County, more than Charleston does IMO.

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^ That's where I try to differentiate the different aspects of 'suburbs', there are sattelite cities such as Anderson or Rock Hill, then suburbs that are uniquely identifiable & not completely within a larger urban area such as Aiken, then lastly there are suburbs that are within a larger urban area but are significantly large enough to be recognized - Mt Pleasant.

Otherwise I try to consider the regional significance of the cities, often towns such as Orangeburg that are major commercial centers for a multi-county area. They may be small - but they dominate their region.

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^  That's where I try to differentiate the different aspects of 'suburbs', there are sattelite cities such as Anderson or Rock Hill, then suburbs that are uniquely identifiable & not completely within a larger urban area such as Aiken, then lastly there are suburbs that are within a larger urban area but are significantly large enough to be recognized - Mt Pleasant.

Otherwise I try to consider the regional significance of the cities, often towns such as Orangeburg that are major commercial centers for a multi-county area.  They may be small - but they dominate their region.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

One way I like to look at things, is how does the city serve its people? I do not mean this in a governmental way, but in an economic one. Not 'does your city have a good economy,' but can you live in your city and not have to go to another for anything? If so, for what?

I like to compare Spartanburg and Rock Hill, which many of you rank in the same tier. Spartanburg is a very independant place, much more so than Rock Hill. It does not rely on Greenville in the same manner that RH relies on Charlotte. Obviously there are more minute distinctions etc, but that is how I compare things. Similarly I think Anderson is more dependent on Greenville than Spartanburg is, which is why it ranked lower on my list.

Its not all about dependency on larger cities, but how the city can sustain itself economically, which is often tied to a larger city like teshadoh said. Orangeburg is the center of its area, and people from smaller towns nearby like Bamberg, maybe, have to travel elsewhere becuase their town does not provide all of the necessities people need.

The exception to this rule is definately Myrtle Beach. Its inside-out economy gives it a perverted existance in terms of my comparison, thus making it hard to define. I consider what the population could support on its own, without tourism, and that lines up best with Spartanburg. This is based mostly on its UA population since they are similar (145k (SPA)vs 122k(MB) I think). Realistically it may acutally need to be on a lower tier.

Much of this may indeed be subjective, but I think it could be reinforced with commuting patterns and MSAs and CSAs.

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I think Rock Hill has a much more traditional downtown and economy than say Mt. Pleasant. While it's proximity to Charlotte does give it an economic boost, until recently it has always had an independant economy, via it being a textile community. Springmaid Mills was based there and for decades and decades the town grew around this and Bowater mills. And until I-77 opened which made commuting easy, there were not a lot of people living in Rock Hill that worked in Charlotte.

During this period while Rock Hill was operating as SC's 5th largest city Mt. Pleasant was mostly closed down during the winter and only got active when people showed up to stay in their beach houses. It's only after Charleston land prices started getting expensive that Mt. Pleasant started to grow. Mt Pleasant is a beach community with no discernable downtown and has become a suburb of Charleston and unlike Rock Hill, would not exist if it were not for Charleston. A sure sign of this is that Mt. Pleasant is comprised of some of the worst auto oriented sprawl in the state and life there today means a slow crawl in your auto on Hwy 17 from stop light to stop light and from strip mall to strip mall.

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Good points - & I had considered breaking my second tier down further - but as you can tell, it has a large assortment of different types of cities. Spartan - I would agree that Spartanburg is on another level than the other tier two cities, as Rock Hill is not only a suburb but functions as a sattelite city just as Mount Pleasant is nothing more than a suburb, just a large one. As monsoon suggested, I would have considered Rock Hill to be a sub-regional city in the past, but it is now much more dependant on Charlotte now.

Tier 2A

Spartanburg

Tier 2B

Myrtle Beach - I could have also included Conway

Florence

Sumter

Greenwood

Orangeburg

Tier 2C

Rock Hill

North Charleston

Anderson

North Charleston is an odd one though, many have suggested that N Charleston is the defacto downtown for Charleston. In one sense N Charleston could be considered an equal city - like WinstonSalem & Greensboro, or as a lesser city but still a primary one - like Greenville & Spartanburg. But I suppose I still consider it a sattelite city, as I consider Rock Hill. Anderson, I'm not sure - I'm assuming it is more of a satelite city to Greenville, but I could be wrong about that.

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I think Rock Hill has a much more traditional downtown and economy than say Mt. Pleasant.  While it's proximity to Charlotte does give it an economic boost, until recently it has always had an independant economy, via it being a textile community.  Springmaid Mills was based there and for decades and decades the town grew around this and Bowater mills.  And until I-77 opened which made commuting easy, there were not a lot of people living in Rock Hill that worked in Charlotte. 

During this period while Rock Hill was operating as SC's 5th largest city Mt. Pleasant was mostly closed down during the winter and only got active when people showed up to stay in their beach houses. It's only after Charleston land prices started getting expensive that Mt. Pleasant started to grow.  Mt Pleasant is a beach community with no discernable downtown and has become a suburb of Charleston and unlike Rock Hill, would not exist if it were not for Charleston.  A sure sign of this is that Mt. Pleasant is comprised of some of the worst auto oriented sprawl in the state and life there today means a slow crawl in your auto on Hwy 17 from stop light to stop light and from strip mall to strip mall.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I don't agree with that comparison. Mt Pleasant and Rock Hill are two entriley different beasts. Mt Pleasant is Charleston. Its that simple. It is simply a region within it. A friend of mine recently told me that he moved to Charleston, then when I asked where in Charleston he said Mt Pleaseant.

If someone moves to Rock Hill, they won't say "I moved to Charlotte." This is becuase, as you said, Rock Hill does have its own identity.

This is exactly why I said that suburban or non-core municipalities should be included with their core city, creating thee metro/mice/UA comparison. The identity factor plays a large part as well. Rock Hill is indeed depended on Charlotte, but you could still function there and not have to rely on Charlotte. It is more of a satellite city than a suburb.

The only other way I would classify the cities is to bump Spartanburg up to a subclass of the tier 1 cities.

  • Tier 1

    Columbia

    Charleston

    Greenville

    • Tier 1B

      Spartanburg

    [*]Tier 3

    Myrtle Beach

    Florence

    Anderson

    Rock Hill

    Hilton Head

    [*]Tier 4

    Aiken

    Sumter

    Orangeburg

    [*]Tier 5

    smaller places the likes of:

    Georgetown

    Chester

    Lancaster

    Walterboro

    Beaufort

    Greenwood

    Abbeville

    Hartsville

    Marion

    Union

    Newberry

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Am I the only one here that doesn't consider Aiken a suburb? Of course it's partially hometown pride, but I consider it an independent city that lies close to Augusta. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say that Augusta would have been a stagnant city for the past 50 years if it wasn't for Aiken businesses (I'm talking about SRS of course). If anything, I'd say Augusta's been just as parasitic to Aiken(city) as it has been beneficial. The fact is, these days most Aikenites have no reason to go to Augusta, since everything we need can be handled in Aiken.

With that in mind, the only questions that I have on these lists are:

Spartan: Why such a high ranking for Anderson? I don't see how it belongs above Sumter or Aiken. From my understanding, they're both more independent cities than Anderson.

teshadow: Greenwood, Orangeburg? They're both isolated/independent, but they're still small cities and they're not really developing/growing. What's your reason for their high ranking?

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I don't agree with that comparison. Mt Pleasant and Rock Hill are two entriley different beasts. Mt Pleasant is Charleston. Its that simple. It is simply a region within it. A friend of mine recently told me that he moved to Charleston, then when I asked where in Charleston he said Mt Pleaseant.

If someone moves to Rock Hill, they won't say "I moved to Charlotte." This is becuase, as you said, Rock Hill does have its own identity.

This is exactly why I said that suburban or non-core municipalities should be included with their core city, creating thee metro/mice/UA comparison. The identity factor plays a large part as well. Rock Hill is indeed depended on Charlotte, but you could still function there and not have to rely on Charlotte. It is more of a satellite city than a suburb...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Very well said, Spartan. This view should be the normal view for comparing cities in the state. One of my best friends who was also a groomsman in my wedding is originally from Rock Hill, but now lives in Charleston. When he goes back home to family, he always says, "I'm going to Rock Hill this weekend", not to Charlotte. Rock Hill does have its own identity, and when comparing the SC cities in terms of tiers, identity has to be a primary consideration.

North Charleston is an odd one though, many have suggested that N Charleston is the defacto downtown for Charleston. In one sense N Charleston could be considered an equal city - like WinstonSalem & Greensboro, or as a lesser city but still a primary one - like Greenville & Spartanburg. But I suppose I still consider it a sattelite city, as I consider Rock Hill.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I definitely disagree with this observation. First of all, the North area has a lot of business that makes Charleston area residents commute to work, but DT Charleston is the primary DT...when anybody refers to DT, they know they're talking about the peninsula. Also, the North area is just like Mt. Pleasant as far as identity. Without Charleston, those other 2 cities would never have existed. These areas are Charleston.

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Charleston_native - that was not my observation, I consider N Charleston somewhere between a suburb & a sattelite city. But N Charleston is a major edge city as Mt Pleasant is strictly a suburb. So - that is where I think there is some dilemna, Charleston isn't that much larger than N Charleston to fully overshadow N Charleston - but I wouldn't consider it an equal in the least.

Topher - Orangeburg, Greenwood, Sumter, etc. are all regional centers, despite their varying sizes, they are the primary city/town for a multi-county area. Aiken isn't specifically that - as it's significance is tied to Augusta. That meaning - I wouldn't consider it neccessarily a suburb, I think again - as many SC cities are - a satelite city to Augusta. N Augusta on the other hand is a suburb.

Spartan - totally agree, currently I think RH is a satelite city, but it is definitely in the direction of being a suburb, though likely to have edge city significance.

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Charleston_native - that was not my observation, I consider N Charleston somewhere between a suburb & a sattelite city.  But N Charleston is a major edge city as Mt Pleasant is strictly a suburb.  So - that is where I think there is some dilemna, Charleston isn't that much larger than N Charleston to fully overshadow N Charleston - but I wouldn't consider it an equal in the least...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I see your point, but keep in mind that the North city is a direct extension from the original peninsula that forms DT. It's identity is consumed as being a large suburb of Charleston. Many people that live and work in the North area actually have their addresses listed as Charleston...there are exceptions of course, but it usually is the norm. Knowing that should keep the North city from being considered in a Tier list. I foresee in the future that both cities will eventually merge (of course, that is my hope as well! ^_^ ) because geographically it makes sense and both cities' large redevelopment projects will overlap each other (Noisette and Magnolia).

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Am I the only one here that doesn't consider Aiken a suburb?  Of course it's partially hometown pride, but I consider it an independent city that lies close to Augusta.  In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say that Augusta would have been a stagnant city for the past 50 years if it wasn't for Aiken businesses (I'm talking about SRS of course).  If anything, I'd say Augusta's been just as parasitic to Aiken(city) as it has been beneficial.  The fact is, these days most Aikenites have no reason to go to Augusta, since everything we need can be handled in Aiken.

With that in mind, the only questions that I have on these lists are:

Spartan:  Why such a high ranking for Anderson?  I don't see how it belongs above Sumter or Aiken.  From my understanding, they're both more independent cities than Anderson.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree. I think Aiken is definatley not a suburb. Infact, it is barely a satellite city. Its a very independant place. How often does an Aikener (Aikenian? -- whatever) rely on Augusta for anything?

Anderson has enough population and enough independence to rank as it did on my list. It is not completely dependent on Greenville. You could compare Anderson to Greenville like you can compare Aiken to Augusta.

Sumter and Aiken are also smaller cities in general, which is why they ranked lower on my list.

Charleston_native - that was not my observation, I consider N Charleston somewhere between a suburb & a sattelite city.  But N Charleston is a major edge city as Mt Pleasant is strictly a suburb.  So - that is where I think there is some dilemna, Charleston isn't that much larger than N Charleston to fully overshadow N Charleston - but I wouldn't consider it an equal in the least.

Topher - Orangeburg, Greenwood, Sumter, etc. are all regional centers, despite their varying sizes, they are the primary city/town for a multi-county area.  Aiken isn't specifically that - as it's significance is tied to Augusta.  That meaning - I wouldn't consider it neccessarily a suburb, I think again - as many SC cities are - a satelite city to Augusta.  N Augusta on the other hand is a suburb.

Spartan - totally agree, currently I think RH is a satelite city, but it is definitely in the direction of being a suburb, though likely to have edge city significance.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Not at all. N Chas is more of a suburb than Mt Pleasant! It is as Charleston native said, a direct extension of the city itself, and it owes its existnace to Charleston.

Summerville on the other hand, could be classified as a satellite city.

Rock Hill may indeed become a full suburb one day, but its not here yet :)

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^And the day that happens, which will be a scary one indeed, I hope to be LONG gone! ;)

For a comparison that Teshadoh could shed some further light upon, once Charlotte's development reaches further south, I could see Rock Hill similar to Alpharetta in Atlanta's case.

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