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Distribution & Logistics

Report: Upstate generates more than half of South Carolina Ports impact

Distribution & Logistics
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The Upstate, with its diverse manufacturing base, is a big beneficiary of ports activities, according to a study. (Photo/SCPA)The S.C. Ports Authority’s annual fiscal year 2022 report (pdf) shows the Upstate experiences a $32.8 billion economic impact out of the $63.4 billion total impact attributed to the ports, with more than $5.5 million in capital expenditures poured into Inland Port Greer.

S.C. ports also bring in $1.1 billion in annual state tax revenue and account for nearly 117,000 jobs in the Upstate alone because of port-dependent businesses, including recent investments from companies such as BMW, Bosch and Walmart.

The SCPA is expanding Inland Port Greer to add more cargo and rail capacity to the rail-served inland terminal, helping to speed goods to market, according to the report. The expansion involves building additional rail processing and storage tracks within the terminal, expanding the container yard to the east and west, enlarging the existing chassis yard, and building new facilities for port operations.

The mayor of Greer says many of the town's residents find Inland Port Greer to be a bit of a mystery. (Photo/SCPA)City of Greer Mayor Rick Danner said Inland Port Greer is sort of a “hidden treasure,” an enigma for residents.

“From a statewide standpoint, there is undeniable impact the inland port has on the state, the Upstate, and the city,” said Danner. “It’s changed the ways we do business here and the growth of distribution models we see in the Greer area. We know there is direct impact to the city in regard to its presence here. But if you tell people there is an inland port in Greer, you typically get a blank stare.”

Most people don’t know what it does or what it’s about or that it’s even here, he added. The port is industry-specific and while it propels a lot of what goes on in the Upstate, there is still a lack of understanding the importance it plays in commerce in the region and the state.

SCPA promotes, develops and facilitates waterborne commerce to meet the current and future needs of its customers, and for the economic benefit of the citizens and businesses in the state. Through creating jobs on the waterfront and supporting indirect jobs at port-dependent businesses around the state, the ports authority has a world-class port that attracts many companies to invest in new facilities and expand existing operations, which in turn, creates more jobs for South Carolinians, driving economic growth in the state, according to the report.

Related content: Work begins on $550M South Carolina Ports projects

SCPA President and CEO Barbara Melvin said in the report, “Every container we move represents an economic opportunity. We are so grateful to our state leaders for their bold vision and for understanding what South Carolina businesses need to be successful. Because of their support, our strategic investments in critical port infrastructure will yield dividends to South Carolina for decades to come.”

Following the most successful fiscal year in SCPA history, it continues to thrive as a “smarter port operator” and strong maritime community, Melvin added.

S.C. ports handled unprecedented cargo volumes in fiscal year 2022, according to the report, setting twenty-foot equivalent unit records for 11 months out of the year. A TEU is a unit of measurement used to determine cargo capacity for container ships and terminals. The Port of Charleston moved a record 2.85 million TEUs in the previous fiscal year, which is up 12% from the prior year.

“Record imports drove this growth, while ongoing pandemic disruptions revealed constraints in the global supply chain,” Melvin said in the report. “Our port team was put to the test, working tirelessly to deliver goods to communities, hospitals, manufacturers and retailers. We implemented creative solutions, including prioritizing vessels, leasing new S.C. ports’ chassis, hiring 150 people in operations and extending gate hours. These measures benefited customers and improved the lives of motor carriers.”

The critical infrastructure in place at S.C. ports is possible with the support of the South Carolina Legislature and S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, the report said.

The Legislature and McMaster approved $550 million to fund key infrastructure projects, according to the report.

“Through well-planned, targeted investment, South Carolina Ports has positioned itself as a top driver of South Carolina’s economy,” said McMaster. “Our investments into critical port infrastructure have attracted world-class companies to South Carolina and helped our existing businesses thrive. S.C. Ports keeps South Carolina globally competitive and creates great jobs for our citizens. We look forward to the continued growth of our port.”

The funds from the state are crucial as the port continues to grow, said Danner.

“We will continue to meet the needs here over the next decade and beyond while continuing to expand, grow, and adopt new technologies,” said Danner. “Charleston is open to new means of technology, and these funds are money I can guarantee will be well spent and will leverage a lot more than the port spends in terms in what it means to the state.”

Also, most jobs in the Upstate have a direct correlation to the port, Danner added. It’s an economic driver that most people don’t realize how important it is to the economy of the state, he said.

“We are fortunate that our state leaders understand that S.C. Ports is a tremendous economic engine for South Carolina,” the report added.

SCPA Board of Directors Chairman Bill Stern said having a top U.S. container port in the state is an economic advantage.

“South Carolina Ports attracts companies to establish new operations, bringing billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to our state,” he added. “Port operations also support our well-established partners, many of whom have moved goods through the Port of Charleston for decades and continually grow their workforces. Port-dependent businesses benefit from having a well-run port in their backyard.”

This is true of South Carolina’s biggest companies such as advanced manufacturers, automakers, mega retailers and health care systems — as well as many small business owners and agricultural producers who depend on access to global markets, he said.

“S.C. Ports will continue to grow, bringing jobs and investments to our state,” said Melvin. “Our port investments will yield economic benefits for generations to come.”

For more information on the South Carolina Ports Authority, visit its website.

Related stories:

Bosch investing $260M in North Charleston expansion

BMW to invest $1B in Plant Spartanburg expansion

Reach Krys at 864-640-4418.

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