Not since BMW Manufacturing Co. announced it was coming to Greer has a groundbreaking ceremony ignited so much enthusiasm in the Upstate.
Signage pointing to Nordic has been removed with the warehouse one of two buildings scheduled to be razed for the construction of the Inland Port.
The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) will hold a celebrated groundbreaking Friday at 1 p.m. in Greer at the site of the future $30 million South Carolina Inland Port (SCIP). BMW will be partnering with the SCPA as its premier customer. The funding has been secured and included in this year’s fiscal budget.
Gov. Nikki Haley, Secretary Ray LaHood of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Jim Newsome, President and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority, Mike McClellan, VP, Intermodal and Automotive Marketing for Norfolk Southern and Mayor Rick Danner are among the speakers scheduled to officially launch the project.
The Inland Port will improve the efficiency of international container movements between the Port of Charleston, the Upstate and neighboring states.
Danner likens the Port as the game-changer BMW has been to the Upstate. “It’s really hard to get our arms around this because I don’t think anybody can say exactly what the impact will be,” Danner said. “We do know the benefits will be unmatched since BMW came to the Upstate.”
The SCIP is located off the Verne Smith Parkway on land near BMW and adjacent to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Greer. Materials will be transported via double-stack container trains (Norfolk Southern) between Greer and the Charleston Port.
The inland port is expected to convert around 25,000 container movements from truck to rail in the first year of operation, the SCPA said.
Truck traffic is expected to decrease roundtrip from Charleston to the upstate by 25,000 trips with a potential of 50,000 trips annually.
Those transportation businesses traveling the corridor between Charleston and Greer would feel the immediate impact.
Clearing and grading of the site began last week. The GSP Airport District and SCPA recently negotiated the purchase of additional acreage at $28,500 per acre for the site that will sit on approximately 60 acres. Two warehouses SCPA owns on the property will be razed.
The SCPA purchased about 100 acres in Greer in 1982 to develop it into an inland port.
The SCIP will link the Charleston Harbor and Greer by overnight train service, extending the port’s reach into South Carolina by 220 miles. BMW Manufacturing has Norfolk Southern rail access on site for the loading of vehicles and unloading of suppliers’ materials.
The Inland Port will create 30 jobs. The number of construction jobs the facility will hire in Greer has not been announced.
Completion of the port is scheduled in the fall, according to SCPA officials, with the likely opening in December, contractors familiar with the construction process, say. That is an accelerated plan since the initial announcement was made last July.
The present entry to the site at 1120 East Poinsett Street will be closed. The S.C. Department of Transportation will build a road that will provide access to the port from J. Verne Smith Parkway.
“With the Port Authority spending $30 million, you can bet DOT will provide a quality road,” Reno Deaton, Greer Development Corp. executive director, said. “There are so many moving parts to this project you can expect the Port to have a lot of activity quickly. It will be a state-of-the-art facility.”
During a “Meet the Legislators” First Friday Luncheon (Jan. 4) at City Hall, all seven representatives and senators deflected Donna O. Smith’s question regarding access to the Inland Port.
The Department of Transportation hosted an information session in January to educate upstate business and industry executives of the comprehensive statewide freight plan it announced last summer. Doug Frate, deputy secretary of intermodal and freight programs, led the session in conjunction with the Ports Authority and Department of Commerce.
Regarding the Inland Port, Frate said DOT’s concern was the infrastructure, specifically access to the J. Verne Smith Parkway (Hwy. 80). Highways 14 and 101 and U.S. 29 all intersect with Hwy. 80 and have direct access to I-85.
During the DOT session in January, Frate told attendees transportation needs from the Inland Port in Greer isn’t measurable, yet. That will come with the development of property surrounding the Port.
A GSP land-use study recommended using 3,500 acres to help recruit manufacturers or large companies to the area. Of that acreage, 1,500 are marked for economic development such as industrial and manufacturing, commercial, mixed-use retail or office space. Aviation related functions are planned on the remaining 2,000 acres such as a second runway, taxiways, and cargo support facilities.
A $120 million Terminal Improvement Project (TIP) is ongoing that will increase the size of the terminal, ticket counters, add additional vendors on two of the three floors and construct two baggage handling facilities. The TIP is preparing 2 million passengers a year traveling through GSP by 2030. The airport is presently handling nearly one million passengers a year.