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South Carolina’s Manufacturing Industry is Thriving

See why so many companies find South Carolina's logistics industry so appealing.

By Kevin Litwin on January 24, 2020

South Carolina Heatworks|South Carolina Manufacturing|South Carolina Ports Authority
Stephen Stinson

South Carolina has fashioned a well-deserved reputation for making things – and an equally deserved reputation for getting them where they need to go.

The state’s standout transportation network includes access to Interstates 20, 26, 77, 85 and 95, along with 41,000 miles of state-maintained highways that put more than 200 million people within a two-day drive. That attractive statistic prompted transportation, distribution and logistics (TDL) companies to invest in excess of $1 billion into the state from 2011 to 2018. More than 113,000 people now work in the state’s thriving TDL industry.

South Carolina is a distribution point for dozens of major companies, including big names such as Amazon, Dollar Tree, Target and Walmart. In addition to roads, the state also stays connected to major U.S. markets and beyond, with five commercial airports within its borders and three more in close proximity.

For companies that ship freight by rail, options include Class I carriers CSX and Norfolk Southern, along with eight short line railroads, highlighted by state-owned Palmetto Railways that operates three common carrier railroads. Combined, all of these rail services along South Carolina’s 2,300 miles of track move nearly 50 million tons of freight through the state’s 46 counties each year.

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Ronnie Smith

One in Every 11 Jobs

Another key part of the transportation sector is the bustling Port of Charleston, which plays a key role in South Carolina’s exports and foreign direct investment. In fiscal year 2019, the Port of Charleston reported record volume growth, handling a total of 2.4 million 20-foot equivalent cargo container units (TEUs), representing an 8.8% increase from fiscal year 2018.

Along with Charleston, the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) oversees the Port of Georgetown, Inland Port Greer and Inland Port Dillon. The four ports account for more than $50 billion in annual statewide economic impact. One in every 11 jobs in South Carolina is attributed to the ports. Port-supported jobs pay nearly 40% higher than the state’s average annual salary.

Hard at Work: South Carolina Attracts Talent

“Our container business handled a record amount of cargo, our inland ports in Greer and Dillon both had strong growth year-over-year, and our rail program moved more cargo than ever before,†says Jim Newsome, SCPA CEO. “As we head into fiscal year 2020, we will continue investing in our infrastructure to handle growth as well as supporting our employees and the entire maritime community who make these significant achievements possible.”

The Port of Charleston currently has five terminals, but a sixth is under construction. The 80-acre Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal will open in North Charleston in 2021. The new container cargo facility will increase the port’s total handling capacity by 50%.

The SCPA was named among the Best Places to Work in South Carolina for 2019 by SC Biz News and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

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Stephen Stinson

Environmentally Friendly Cranes

The Inland Port Greer reported its busiest year yet in fiscal year 2019, with 143,204 rail moves, up nearly 22% from the prior year.

The SCPA has also been updating its port technology, including using a $2 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to replace existing high-powered diesel engines in cranes. The diesel engines are being replaced in cranes at the SCPA’s busy Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant.

The new engines will reduce emissions of particle matter, air toxins and nitrogen oxides up to 96%, while reducing annual fuel consumption by more than 100,000 gallons. Cranes at Wando Welch Terminal are used to move and stack the heaviest cargo boxes imported and exported through the Port of Charleston.

“We secured EPA funding to upgrade our 12 least efficient RTG (rubber-tired gantry) cranes with high performing, environmentally friendly battery/genset hybrids,†says Stephen Brisben, mechanical technical specialist for SCPA’s Heavy Lift Maintenance Department. “This aligns with our efforts to upgrade equipment to both improve air quality standards in the Lowcountry and enhance terminal operations.”

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