Published on December 29th, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff


New Study: State Ports Critical to Pee Dee Economy

By Jeff McKay

The role of the North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA) has many functions, but one primary goal: to enhance the quality of life for our region’s citizens through economic development and job creation in a nine-county region.

We have always known that our state port system plays a unique role, even in counties far away from the coast, but its importance to us has now been documented with concrete data to define the significance of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) — our state’s link to the global marketplace.

In the Pee Dee alone, a new study says the port system has an economic impact of $6.3 billion. That translates into 23,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in labor income. In all, one in 14 jobs is tied to the port.

It was conducted by Dr. Joseph Von Nessen, research economist at the Darla Moore Business School of the University of South Carolina. It covers the total economic impact associated with the port system operations and users during 2014 and defines the Pee Dee as Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg counties.

“In the Pee Dee region alone, the port’s impact translates into nearly 23,000 high-wage jobs,” according to the analysis. “The port is helping to expand the local manufacturing base into a sizeable industry footprint, which will generate higher and more stable rates of economic growth in the region in the long run.”

Behind the statistics are real people whose quality of life has been enhanced because the state long ago recognized the strategic value of its ocean harbor.  Wisely, state leaders created a “public-private partnership” called the South Carolina Ports Authority which has served us well since 1942.

Today, the Port’s statewide impact as a job creator and revenue generator is truly amazing.  Over 187,000 jobs have been created statewide with an economic impact of $53 billion.  A brief summary of the statewide SCPA economic benefits the study found include:

  • One in every 11 jobs in South Carolina can be attributed directly or indirectly to our Port system. This corresponds to $10.2 billion in labor income that would not exist without the presence of the SCPA.
  • On average, jobs directly or indirectly supported by the Port pay nearly 40 percent higher than the state’s average annual salary.
  • The $53 billion in annual economic output supported by the SCPA represents nearly 10 percent of South Carolina’s total annual gross state product.
  • Port operations produce more than $912 million in tax revenue annually for the State.

Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt called SCPA “the nation’s most productive port,” and the performance record for the fiscal year that ended in June proves his point. During the past year alone, there was a nearly 15 percent increase in container volume.  A record-breaking 553,000 vehicles moved across SCPA docks during the year, up 15 percent.

Additionally, in the NESA region of the state, the Port of Georgetown contributed to SCPA’s growth of six percent above plan last fiscal in the non-containerized cargo business segment. During FY2015, 548,933 pier tons moved across the docks at Georgetown.

The game changer for the future will be the port’s ability to handle the larger cargo ships that are being built.

We were especially pleased to learn SCPA gained the support and approval needed to deepen the harbor to 52-feet, which is essential to remain competitive in the global economy with the new commercial ships that are so much larger than in the past.

The harbor deepening project is scheduled to be complete by 2020, and that will empower our Ports to continue the momentum so important to our economy.  In his “State of the Port” address, SCPA president and CEO Jim Newsome expressed great optimism for the future.  “The Port has a highly talented and skilled workforce,” he said.  “And with the commitment of our entire maritime community, I am confident that SCPA’s best years are ahead.”

Those of us in the Pee Dee who live, work and raise our families many miles away from the port, can be grateful.  We live in a State whose leaders back in 1942 had the vision to create a public-private partnership capable of embracing technologies and massive ships traversing the world at speeds they never dreamed possible.

Somehow, those early State leaders intuitively knew, by creating SCPA, they were innovating something future generations would need to prosper.  And that tradition continues today.  In 2015, South Carolina is blessed to have a Port system that empowers our small State to play a big role in the world economy.

Jeff McKay is the Executive Director of the North Eastern Strategic Alliance.



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