Produce from Panama may proliferate via Charleston once the Panama Canal’s planned expansion is complete, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce predicted recently as it picked up on shifting trade trends in the Western Hemisphere.
SunTrust Bank's Kiernan Conway, senior vice president of credit risk management and an expert on port commerce, said South Carolina is ideally positioned to act as a hub to receive fresh fruits and vegetables ferried through the Central American channel.
Speaking before an audience of over 100 stakeholders at the World Trade Center Charleston International’s recent Trade Lunch at the local Daniel Island Club, Conway spoke of a sea of change in North America’s supply chain with the recently completed Canal project, calculating a 40 to 60 percent shift from the United States’ West Coast to the East Coast.
WTC Charleston's executive director Pennie Bingham anticipates the region’s attracting additional refrigeration logistics and food processing providers, providing variety in Charleston’s manufacturing sector.
“This would provide additional economic diversification from the growing aerospace and automotive manufacturing already underway in the Charleston region,” Bingham said.
Conway added that the Southeast has witnessed rapid employment growth over the last seven years. From 2009 to 2016, the region grew nearly 23 percent, ranking fifth-highest in the nation. He foresees the need for strong collaboration among industries.
“It’s not just about big ships and deep water,” Conway said, emphasizing South Carolina’s ability to focus. “You have a port leadership that got all of the maritime together and got the legislature together and said, ‘Look, let’s row the boat together for maximum efficiency.'”