Over the past 25 years, Charleston, South Carolina’s economy has shifted from a military and defense-based economy to one that revolves around other aspects of the region including activities of the Port of Charleston, a booming visitor industry, a thriving health care industry, and a growing manufacturing sector, according to a Charleston Chamber of Commerce Economic Forecast report.
In addition, the region’s quality of life and rich history and culture continue to woo new residents young and old, boosting the real estate and development industry.
The South Carolina Port Authority (SCPA) said due to the increased population, it has experienced notable growth in import and export volumes over the past year.
“SCPA’s container volumes grew 14 percent last fiscal year, and while growth has moderated this fiscal year, we plan to achieve 7 percent container growth this fiscal year,” Erin Dhand, spokesperson for SC Ports Authority, told Palmetto Business Daily. “Those volume gains are driven significantly by the markets we serve — from a population perspective, the Southeast is the fastest growing region in the country and provides a growing consumption base that drives import gains.”
Dhand said the resurgence in manufacturing in the region combined with worldwide demand for agriculture products are boosting export volumes.
“These fundamentals, coupled with adequate infrastructure, have also allowed SCPA to successfully grow in the discretionary cargo market, including plastics from the Gulf and agriculture products from the Midwest,” Dhand said.
SCPA has plans for significant expansion over the next few years. But the growth poses some challenges in acquiring the significant capital funding required to provide adequate infrastructure and capacity for today’s big ship industry, Dhand said.
“SCPA and the State of South Carolina will execute $2 billion in port and port-related capital investments over 10 years to address the most significant trends in the industry today, including the deployment of big ships and alliances formed by major shipping lines, to ensure our facilities have required capacity and technology necessary for continued volume growth,” Dhand said.
The SCPA’s capital plan includes: a new container terminal, the Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. Terminal; opening of an Inland Port in Greer, South Carolina; and improvements to existing terminal infrastructure and technology systems.
“The Charleston Harbor Deepening Project, for which the South Carolina General Assembly set aside its share of the construction costs in 2012, will deliver a 52-foot harbor by the end of the decade, making Charleston the deepest harbor on the East Coast,” Dhand said.
The Charleston region’s annual economic forecast report is published by a joint effort between the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Business Research and the College of Charleston’s School of Business and Economics, and includes an 18- to 24-month forecast for the housing industry, visitor industry, airport and Port of Charleston.
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