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Study: Port operations provide $53B to S.C. economy

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A study released today by research economist Joey Von Nessen finds that S.C. port operations create $53 billion in annual economic output in the state and support one in every 11 jobs either directly or indirectly. (Photo/file)A study released today by research economist Joey Von Nessen finds that S.C. port operations create $53 billion in annual economic output in the state and support one in every 11 jobs either directly or indirectly. (Photo/file)

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published Sept. 14, 2015

Port operations in South Carolina generate $53 billion in annual economic output, of which $6.3 billion impacts the Lowcountry economy, according to a new study released today by research economist Joey Von Nessen at the State of the Port address in North Charleston.

The study also found one in every 11 jobs in the state can be attributed directly or indirectly to the S.C. State Ports Authority.

S.C. State Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said the ports authority must invest $1.3 billion in infrastructure projects by 2020. (Photo/Liz Segrist)S.C. State Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said the ports authority must invest $1.3 billion in infrastructure projects by 2020. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

Port study highlights

  • Statewide impact: $53 billion economic output, 187,000 jobs and $10.2 billion in compensation; one in every 11 jobs in South Carolina can be attributed directly or indirectly to the ports authority
  • The $53 billion in annual economic output from port operations represents nearly 10% of the state’s total annual gross state product.
  • Lowcountry impact: $6.3 billion economic output, 22,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in compensation
  • Port operations produce more than $912 million in tax revenue annually for the state.
  • The S.C. Applied Research Center for Supply Chain Logistics and the State Ports Authority chose USC to complete the study. The center, based in Charleston, was established by the S.C. Commerce Department and SCRA to study and collaborate on supply chain and logistics services.
  • The ports authority will host its board meetings at facilities in the Pee Dee, Midlands and Upstate from October through December for announcements of regional-specific data.

Source: S.C. State Ports Authority, University
of South Carolina Moore School of Business study

“The Port is our state’s most strategic asset,” Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said. “It enables South Carolina to recruit and serve the needs of companies with international supply chains, and in doing so, spurs economic development opportunities and generates well-paying jobs for people across the state.”

To continue growth, Newsome said the ports authority must invest $1.3 billion by 2020 to complete the Navy base terminal, improve infrastructure at the Wando Wharf Terminal in Mount Pleasant and invest in taller container cranes and stronger wharfs at terminals to handle bigger ships.

The ports authority plans to borrow funding for its planned projects, as well as increase earnings by raising rates and bringing more cargo through the port, Newsome said.

Also by 2020, Newsome said the first phase of the Navy Base Terminal in North Charleston needs to be operational and the Charleston Harbor needs to be deepened to 52 feet.

Newsome also said he plans to streamline or restructure operations at the agency and improve its culture going forward.

Study details

Von Nessen of the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business studied the total economic impact from port users — all business activities at S.C. firms that require a port facility to be completed — and port operations during the 2014 calendar year.

The ports authority operates five terminals in the Charleston region and has a sixth under construction at the old Navy Base in North Charleston. It also operates an Inland Port in Greer and a terminal in Georgetown.

Von Nessen said the port’s presence in South Carolina influences the state’s long-term economic development efforts, particularly for export-focused clusters like advanced manufacturing.

“An industry cluster will not get up and leave the state as easily as one firm would, so it is important to have strong clusters,” Von Nessen said.

The study found that the port “is responsible for nearly 23,000 jobs” in the Lowcountry region. Those workers infuse more than $1.2 billion from their incomes back into the regional economy each year, data show.

“By the end of the decade we will achieve the deepest harbor on the East Coast, open a new container terminal on the former Charleston Navy Base and modernize our existing facilities,” Ports Authority Board Chairman Bill Stern said in a statement. “We are well-positioned to achieve strong volume growth that will benefit not only our port, but the entire state.”

Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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