The Spark: Happenings in Upstate Biz with Trevor Anderson

After five years, the S.C. Ports Authority's inland port in Spartanburg County near Greer has proven to be an invaluable part of the Upstate's economic lifeblood.

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The South Carolina Ports Authority's Inland Port Greer in Spartanburg County continues to see volume growth. Photo courtesy of the S.C. Ports Authority.

Five years ago, about 250 state and local business leaders huddled together near a tent on a 100-acre patch of dirt just east of downtown Greer.

The air was chilly March 1, 2013, as former Gov. Nikki Haley, S.C. Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome, Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, and a few others gripped the wooden handles of their shovels. There was a momentary pause, followed by an explosion of camera flashes and then the “Psssht” sound of metal striking dirt accompanied by the smell of freshly turned earth.

Officials said then that the State Ports Authority’s inland port in Spartanburg County would spur economic development and improve the efficiency of freight movement between this region and the Port of Charleston via Norfolk Southern rail.

“This is a historic day for South Carolina,” Haley said. “This signals that not only are we open for business, but we mean business. … It shows that we’re serious and that we’re ahead of the game.”

Since that day, BMW Manufacturing Co., the inland port’s largest user, has been named the nation’s top automotive exporter four years running. Greenville-based Michelin North America has contributed to the state becoming the top tire exporter in the U.S.

Part of the Upstate BMW plant’s export operation is housed in a 400,000-square-foot facility beside the inland port. Another 300,000-square-foot warehouse is nearing completion next door. And Illinois-based CenterPoint Properties is clearing land for another large warehouse near the new 230,000-square-foot home of Indiana-based third-party logistics provider ProTrans’ new home at GSP International Logistics Park.

The sum of these parts shows the Upstate has turned the corner from being “open for business” to being “brisk business.”

And Spartanburg County is at the center of it all.

Spartanburg has attracted more than $4 billion in new investment and thousands of jobs since the start of 2014. Ports Authority leaders thought the inland port could handle 100,000 rail moves by its 2018 fiscal year. We are well ahead of those projections: The facility finished the 2017 fiscal year having completed a record 121,761 rail moves. This past week, the Ports Authority reported the inland port’s volume is already up 4 percent during the 2018 fiscal year.

The concept has worked so well that the Ports Authority is building a second inland port in Dillon County. Before the inland port, goods were primarily transported from the Upstate by truck to Charleston and other nearby ports.

The facility has transformed our region into an intermodal hub, and it continues to fuel economic growth, particularly in manufacturing. That means more jobs, more money to spend on goods and services, and more opportunity for our children and our community.

No matter how you look at it, that’s good business.

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