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Ports chief projects potential expansion of inland port

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By Matthew Clark
mclark@scbiznews.com
Published Nov. 16, 2015

Citing the potential to expand to a capacity of 200,000 containers at the S.C. Inland Port, S.C. State Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said he hopes to be able to expand the facility in Greer as part of the authority’s fiscal 2017 budget. Newsome also mentioned the possibility of adding a second inland port in South Carolina.

During a recent event at ZF Chassis in Duncan, Newsome said adding new clients such as the Dollar Tree distribution facility currently being constructed in Cherokee County, could be part of a larger rationale to expand the 47-acre port adjacent to the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport.

S.C. State Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome talks about the prospect of expanding the S.C. Inland Port during an event at ZF Chassis in Duncan. (Photo by Matthew Clark)
S.C. State Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome talks about the prospect of expanding the S.C. Inland Port during an event at ZF Chassis in Duncan. (Photo by Matthew Clark)

Here are some high points of a report on the economic impact of the S.C. State Ports Authority on the state economy:

  • The total economic impact resulting from all activities associated with the ports on the state is estimated to be nearly $53 billion.
  • Approximately 51% of the statewide economic impact associated with the ports is concentrated within the Upstate.
  • The $53 billion in total economic impact is approximately 9.3% of the state’s total annual gross state product.
  • Approximately 4,900 new jobs and $742 million in new economic activity was announced in South Carolina by companies likely to use a port.
  • The average labor income across all jobs supported directly or indirectly by the ports in South Carolina is $54,532, or 39.4% higher than the average labor income in the state.
 
“I believe there are more Dollar Trees out there,” Newsome said.

Newsome’s thoughts came on the heels of an economic impact study conducted by Joey Von Nessen of the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. In the study, Von Nessen, a research economist, said the estimated statewide economic impact of the ports is estimated at $53 billion. He said that impact “corresponds to 187,206 jobs and over $10.2 billion in labor income for South Carolinians that would not exist otherwise.” Von Nessen called the overall economic impact of the ports on the state’s economy “significant.”

The $53 million is approximately 9.3% of the state’s total annual gross state product. The report said the ports generate economic activity “that brings in over $912 million in tax revenue annually for the state of South Carolina.”

The study indicated that, of the overall impact, 51% of that is directly attributed to the Upstate region. He said there is a total of $26.8 billion in total economic output and nearly 95,000 jobs and $5.2 billion in labor income as a result of the Upstate’s contribution to the ports. That has a lot to do with the automotive industry centered in the region, Von Nessen said.

“If you look over the last five years, the automotive cluster has been the driver for growth here,” Von Nessen said.

It is that growth that Newsome hopes to parlay into an expansion of the inland port. Von Nessen said of the $912 million in state tax revenue, nearly $461 million is attributed to Upstate activity supported by the ports. He said the strong automotive cluster was just a part of other clusters starting to pop up, not just in the Upstate, but in other parts of South Carolina.

“Another impact to take note of is once these clusters are in a location, they rarely leave that location,” Von Nessen said.

The report indicated the dollar value of total cargo exported from S.C. ports related to the automotive cluster has increased from 33% three years ago to nearly 41% today. Another finding in the report is the average labor income for jobs supported, either directly or indirectly, by the ports, was more than $54,000 per year, or 39.4% higher than the average labor income in the state.

Additionally, Newsome alluded to the possibility of creating a second inland port somewhere in South Carolina, although he was not specific as to any locations.

“I have a place solidly in mind, but I am not willing to divulge that right now,” Newsome said.

Newsome did not allude to how much an expansion of the inland port in Greer might cost only that it could expand another 25 acres on the property it currently owns. The inland port has capacity for 120,000 containers, and it made 7,214 rail moves in September. During its last board meeting, the ports authority board of directors approved the purchase of a new forklift for the inland port “to accommodate the facility’s growing cargo volumes.”

Newsome would not discuss specific businesses that use the inland port outside of those already identified, such as BMW. He did say that the automobile manufacturer with its plant in Greer now accounts for less than 50% of the volume at the inland port.

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-235-5677, ext. 107 or on Twitter @matthewclark76

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