Fox Files: ‘Greer, South Carolina’

I participated in the World Trade Center and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development’s tour of the Greer, South Carolina inland port this week.

It was fascinating to see the connection between the Charleston, S.C. deepwater port and the Greer inland port. BMW opened its largest plant in the world 25 years ago in Greer and was the driving force (pardon the pun) behind the inland port. Greer has a well-deserved reputation as an advanced manufacturing hub, and the inland port appears to be an important part of the region’s competitive advantage. 
Here are a few pertinent things I learned: 
  1. The land the Inland Port was built on is owned by the South Carolina Port Authority. The Port Authority also owns a significant amount of acreage around the inland port that it leases to high cap-ex tenants at an attractive annual rate. 
  2. The $50 mil infrastructure was fronted by the Port Authority. Norfolk Southern paid for the tracks. 
  3. No taxpayer funds were used to support the infrastructure, but the Port Authority bonds off of the revenue it receives. 
  4. The inland port has five 50 foot cranes
  5. BMW is by far the inland port’s largest customer, representing 60% of the overall 125,000 TEU volume. 
  6. Since the inland port came online, the regional economy has seen significant investment by manufacturing firms and logistics/distribution companies. 
  7. The Greer inland port has been so successful that the South Carolina Port Authority is investing in another new greenfield inland port in Dillon, South Carolina. 
  8. The Inland Port has an export surplus, with a ratio of 60/40. They actually have to rail in empty containers to deal with exports. This is a “good” problem. 
I had the chance to meet with some local economic developers and they were very positive about inland port and its effect on the economy. They indicated it has allowed them to help attract some of BMW’s tier 1 suppliers, where previously most of their penetration was with the tier 2 suppliers. 
Given the size of Salt Lake City’s existing infrastructure (including the Union Pacific’s intermodal hub), we are extremely well positioned to execute on an inland port strategy if we can be intentional about it and if our existing exporters and customers of the Pacific ports are willing to form some type of consortium.