Norfolk Southern's call set Inland Port in action mode

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Friday, January 24, 2014

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Julie McCombs

"Its presence in Greer will attract new companies to the Upstate and foster the expansion of those already located here."

Gov. Nikki Haley

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Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman thanked local elected officials and administrators for their

Julie McCombs

Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman thanked local elected officials and administrators for their "hard and very fast work to pave the way to bring this project from concept to reality in such a short amount of time."

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"The Inland Port is a game-changing investment that will shape the future of not only the Upstate but all of South Carolina."

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham

Wick Moorman, Norfolk Southern CEO, made a bold phone call last January to Jim Newsome, President/CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority.

Fast forward one year later to Friday’s invitation only party that included guests Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Lindsey Graham, political leaders, and business and industry decision makers. The celebration was for the $50 million Inland Port that began receiving containers 7.5 months after the March 1 groundbreaking.

Moorman said this year, Norfolk Southern will take 25,000 truck moves off I-26, saving fuel and emissions and alleviating congestion. “Considering the growing pressures on truck operations, we anticipate this new service will provide upstate shippers with a cost-effective alternative for fulfilling their supply chain," he said.

Yet, the build out of the port, despite a record breaking 70 inches of rain that Newsome said cost 120 lost construction days was testimony to the construction entities an sub-contractors.

“I can’t think of any kind of project like this, with the involvement of the state and a ports authority, that we have accomplished in this kind of time,” Moorman said. “This is just remarkable. “All it took was one phone call and it was off the races.”

All the ingredients for the port were packaged nicely on about 100 acres of property that CenterPoint Properties, a third party, leased from Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport.

“We were aware of the ownership of this big parcel of land and of course we, Norfolk Southern, had 20 years ago helped the state of Virginia develop an inland port (Port Royal),” Moorman said.

“It was a concept that we were very familiar with and I think, originally when the land was purchased, that was the thought that someday we would do this.”

Newsome held the key for pulling the project together, Moorman said.  “We had a great relationship with Jim (Newsome) and that was the origination for dialogue. We thought maybe this is the right time to start that conversation. We knew Jim was kind of a progressive guy who would have that kind of vision and also a get it done guy.”

Moorman knew of the Upstate. It’s where he started his railroad career in track maintenance in Greenville.

“Even back then it was very clear that there was a vision around here of how to do economic development,” Moorman said. “There is a reason that BMW is here, in Greer South Carolina. Look at Spartanburg and all the industry that has been up there. All the things like the education system, workforce development.

“When you look at this area it still has all of that and the great workforce and the right kind of interest up here. This is just one more tool in the arsenal for economic development in Upstate development in South Carolina.”

Thirty-nine major companies (Family Dollar, Ferguson Enterprises, Toray Plastic, DuPont among them) have located in Front Royal since the Virginia Inland Port began operations. The investment is more than $750 million with 8.5 million square feet of buildings and employment above 8,000.

Moorman sees a lot of the same growth coming to the area over time. “What I would anticipate happening, our vision would be, is you would see a lot of industry and we’re optimistic that over time you will see more and more manufacturing return to the United States. With the energy revolution and everything else going on, and a lot of the infrastructure, they are going to find very attractive.”

And the best seller of them all, said Moorman, “They also say, by the way, I’ve got direct access to the port in a way a lot of other cities don’t.”

Moorman also said not to rule out another plum – Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. “This whole idea today is that manufacturers are global companies. Companies are going to be bringing parts in from overseas, just like BMW. They’re going to want to have, based on the type of products they are bringing in now, a lot of transportation options.

“There are going to be places where air cargo with small, light high value products is what they need. And then companies are going to have things where they are going to want to ship an automobile, assembled or disassembled, or bring in auto parts. They will want all that flexibility. And the fact now is that here in Upstate South Carolina you’ve got that flexibility.”

Moorman said the biggest selling point remains how the momentum pushed the project forward. “I mean groundbreaking was last March. That is a real credit to the port, elected officials, regulatory officials, and everyone who got behind this project and made it work. It was a great thing to see.

“It’s a remarkable story.”

Businesses mentioned in this article.

South Carolina Ports


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