The Spark: Happenings in Upstate Biz with Trevor Anderson

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The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) celebrated the grand opening of the state’s second Inland Port in Dillon County on Monday, April 16 — a move that has sparked some consternation and maybe even a little confusion about how that facility could impact Inland Port Greer.

First off, it’s no secret that the Inland Port, which is actually located in Spartanburg County, has been a “game changer” for industry in the Upstate.

SCPA recently announced the Inland Port handled 10,612 rail moves in March, bringing its fiscal year-to-date volume to 87,360 moves since July, which is a 3 percent increase compared with the same period of the previous year.

That’s impressive considering the facility completed a record 121,761 rail moves in 2017.

In terms of shipping containers, it means that more than 333 trucks per day are being kept off of the Interstate 26 corridor between the Upstate and the Port of Charleston.

Whole vehicles, tires, chemicals, and a wealth of other products made in the Upstate are more efficiently finding their way to waiting markets across the globe.

The Inland Port is also feeding Upstate manufacturers with the parts and raw materials they need to keep their operations humming.

Why wouldn’t you want that kind of success for another region and for the state as a whole?

Whether it’s driven by competition or a fear of momentum being pulled away from the Upstate, the gnawing questions remain.

Perhaps it’s best to take a closer look at the differences between the two facilities instead of trying to compare apples to apples.

Location: Inland Port Greer is surrounded by South Carolina’s finest manufacturing and distribution operations and major interstates like I-85 and I-26. Inland Port Dillon is located in the Pee Dee region, which hasn’t yet developed into a magnet for industry.

Intermodal service: Norfolk Southern serves Inland Port Greer. Inland Dillon will be served by CSX. Both rail lines feed into different regions along the East Coast and into the Midwest.

Users: When Inland Port Greer opened in 2013, it already had an anchor customer in place — BMW Manufacturing Co. Since then, the facility’s customer base has grown to include Michelin North America, Dollar Tree, Adidas, Eastman Chemical Co., and others. Inland Port Dillon has an anchor customer in Harbor Freight Tools. SCPA officials hope the facility will also benefit existing port users along the I-95 corridor, which is a major transportation artery, but it isn’t exactly awash with industry.

Capacity: Inland Port Dillon’s initial annual capacity is 45,000 containers. That is 5,000 more containers than the initial capacity that was anticipated for Inland Port Greer. But in four years, Inland Port Greer shattered the 100,000-container threshold projected for its first five years of operation. With little industry surrounding it, there’s no telling what the arch for Inland Port Dillon will be.

Function: Inland Port Greer has become known as an export-driven facility. In fact, the facility exports more full containers to the Port of Charleston than it imports. To maintain a balance, cargo container shippers are sending extra empty containers to the Upstate from other places like Atlanta. SCPA officials expect Inland Port Dillon will be import-driven.

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