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S.C. port, business leaders call for infrastructure strategy

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By Matt Tomsic
Published Dec. 14, 2011

Maritime and business leaders called for a national strategy Wednesday to address the country’s and the Port of Charleston’s infrastructure needs.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley speaksCharleston Mayor Joe Riley was among the speakers at an event Wednesday to discuss infrastructure needs. (Photo/Leslie Burden)
The S.C. State Ports Authority and Building America’s Future South Carolina hosted the event at the Columbus Street Terminal, the site of a more than $20 million investment to handle roll-on, roll-off and break-bulk cargo — such as BMWs made in Upstate South Carolina and nuclear power plant equipment from Westinghouse Electric Co.

Behind the speakers, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge reached across Charleston Harbor.

John Hassell, vice chairman of the ports authority board, said the federal government and presidential candidates need to address maintenance dredging and harbor deepening, both of which are needed to maintain and advance port infrastructure.

Hassell said the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund was created to allocate money to maintain the nation’s ports, but not all of those funds are being used for maintenance.

For harbor deepening, Hassell said earmarks have been eliminated, and no plan exists to replace the now-banned system of funding such projects.

“These are critical matters to our nation,” Hassell said, adding the United States can’t accomplish its goal of doubling exports without deepening harbors like Charleston.

Lewis Gossett, president and CEO of the S.C. Manufacturers Alliance, said his members are optimistic about the next few years and are planning on growth. The Port of Charleston needs to grow as well to handle the expansion plans of manufacturers, he said.

Gossett said those who don’t support infrastructure aren’t supporting manufacturing.

Without adequate infrastructure, manufacturers can’t distribute their goods, he added.

Gossett said the state can no longer benefit from one or two influential federal lawmakers now that the earmarks system is done. Because of that, South Carolina has to be united while the country moves to a merit-based system for infrastructure projects, like deepening ports, he said.

State Sen. Larry Grooms, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, ports CEO Jim Newsome and Stuart Whiteside, chairman-elect of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce also spoke during the event.

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