by Stacy Jacobson
DANIEL ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) -- Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said homegrown company Benefitfocus has led the way for software in the Lowcountry, much like companies did in northern California two decades ago.
"Benefitfocus is a primary mover in creating what is going to be 'Silicon Harbor,'" he said.
The benefits software company cut the ribbon on a new 80,000-square-foot building on its Daniel Island complex Tuesday.
"The design of it is very social and very open. We think it's the next generation of workplace," president and CEO Shawn Jenkins said.
Jenkins said it will house engineers: people who don't do their best work in cubicles. It will allow space for 300 new employee hires.
"I think it's another step forward for our area and growing our software community," Jenkins said.
Steve Dykes, director of the Charleston County Economic Development Authority, said software is just one part of the area's economic fabric.
"We have the advantages that come from the military presence, being a port city and having Boeing," he said.
In the last year, unemployment has gone down by more than one-and-a-half percent, he said. The average unemployment in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester Counties is 6.7 percent in 2012, he added.
Dykes said he had guarded optimism for growth in the area because of national economic uncertainty.
But Jenkins was certain of his optimism for the greater Charleston area.
"As Benefitfocus attracts more software talent to the area, I think it's great for the ecosystem. I think it's good for the university system, it helps the employment picture," he said.
Benefitfocus' expansion and new employee hiring will take place over the next three years, Jenkins said.