Sen. Phil Shoopman, (District 5), is presented the key to the city by Greer Mayor Rick Danner at tonight's city council meeting. Shoopman was recognized for his service to Greer in the state legislature and his role as a member of the Oversight Committee for the State Ports Authority that saw the idea of an inland port in Greer come to fruition.
Most notably, Danner reminded council, was the role Shoopman, a member of the Oversight Committee for the State Ports Authority (SCPA), played in of one of the biggest economic announcements to hit Greer, since arguably BMW.
The SCPA announced Monday it's negotiating a $1.1 million contract with Patrick Engineering and its South Carolina partner Davis and Floyd to develop an inland port in Greer on property at Hwy. 290 that backs against the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. The land sits on property owned by the Port Authority since 1982. The $23.5 million project, referred as “a port without water” will link the coast to the upstate by Norfolk Southern rail. It will be built with public and private funds.
The facility will provide a place for transferring shipping containers between trains and trucks for shipment to and from the coast. The idea of an inland port was hatched in the early 1980s and land was bought but never developed. “The idea was to have a depot for materials to be shipped,” Shoopman said.
“The big picture is seeing the level of demand on services originating from the Upstate,” Shoopman said. “There’s a demand on logistics and service. Global companies are relying on shipping companies to move their goods and it makes us more attractive to local operators in and around the area. Most ports around the world use rail. The (Charleston) port is responding where the demand is going.”
“This won’t just be of benefit to Greer,” Shoopman said. “It will also help Cherokee to Anderson counties. Maybe companies will go where the land costs is cheaper.”
"I don't think a lot of people realize how big this can be," Danner said tonight. "It may be the biggest announcement since BMW."
Shoopman said rail would help alleviate the flow of goods coming to the Upstate from Charleston by trucks and create an added bonus to the I-85 and I-26 corridors. “Because 60 percent of our goods come in and out of the port on highways it will alleviate approximately 50,000 trucks (per delivery) on the road.”
BMW Manufacturing Co. in Greer and Michelin are too global companies that will see immediate results. One of the rails leads into the BMW plant.
The inland port would provide a place to load shipping containers on trains for movement more efficiently to the coast, theoretically overnight from Charleston to Greer (218 miles), A container could arrive into port late in the day and be available near customers upstate for the open of business the next morning. “I look at this as a mini-North Charleston Terminal or a mini-Wando Terminal without the ships in the interior," Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SCPA, told the board of directors on Monday. He said the inland port could be operating within 18 months
The bottom line, Shoopman said, is “It will have a domino effect. It’s going to create more jobs and growth.”
Shoopman likens the inland port similar to a fast food restaurant adding dual drive-thrus with one worker maintaining both lanes. “It’s rooted in how they rely on logistics, efficiency, reliability and accuracy. We have more customers and we’re looking at trying to get the volume away from the port. The port is seeing how it can meet the demand smoothly and remain competitive.”
Customer volume is expanding 30-40-50 percent, Shoopman said. “Often you cross a certain threshold of activity. You are now relying on more than one method to move material.”