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Study finds S.C. Ports Authority pumps $13.6B into Midlands economy

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By Chuck Crumbo
Published Nov. 18, 2015

The S.C. Ports Authority drives $13.6 billion worth of annual economic activity in the Midlands, according to a new study released today at the agency’s monthly board meeting at the Michelin tire plant in Lexington.

The study by the University of South Carolina's Darla Moore School of Business also found business at the state’s ports account for nearly 48,000 jobs in the region and $2.6 billion in annual labor income.

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Joey Von Nessen, research economist at the Darla Moore School of Business, said the state’s ports help expand the Midlands manufacturing base. (Photo/Chuck Crumbo)
Additionally, the manufacturing economy, which represents the primary user base of Port facilities, represents 8.2% the economy in the Midlands regions, said Joey Von Nessen, research economist at USC.

"Although the Ports statewide $53 billion impact is substantial, these economic benefits are felt strongly in the Midlands region, where the Ports impact translates into over 48,000 high-wage jobs," Von Nessen said during a presentation at Michelin’s tire manufacturing facility.

Although the ports are about 100 miles from Columbia, their proximity helps support “ongoing development of export-oriented industry clusters, particularly in advanced manufacturing,” Von Nessen said. “This is helping to expand the local manufacturing base ... into a sizable industry footprint."

Overall, the USC study found that the state’s sports account for one in 12 jobs in the Midlands paying 40% more than the South Carolina’s average annual wage.

The annual economic activity attributable to the Ports Authority accounts for nearly 26% of the agency’s statewide economic impact.

"The Port's strong economic presence here reflects its connectivity across all regions of South Carolina,” said Bill Stern, chairman of the authority. “I'm proud of the Ports role as a provider of well-paying jobs and supporter of economic development opportunities in the heart of our state."

The study identified the following impacts of port operations on Calhoun, Clarendon, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lee, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, Richland, Saluda, Sumter, Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell and Edgefield.

Statewide, business at the state’s ports account for about 187,200 jobs and 10% of the gross state product. The study used total economic impacts associated with port operations and port users during the 2014 calendar year.

The Ports Authority is hosting board meetings around the state touting its contributions to the South Carolina economy. Besides today’s event in Lexington, the board has met in Charleston and Greer. December’s meeting will be at the Honda plant in Florence County.

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