Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Port" is a four-letter word

Ok - so "Port" is a four-letter word. But I think it is a dang good four-letter word that should be used more often by officials in South Carolina! Let me advocate a little for the Port of Charleston and SC Ports Authority.

Why did Charleston, South Carolina become a major city in the 1600's and lead to South Carolina's dominance as an economic player in the early years of this country? Yes, rice and indigo, along with other great agriculture crops of the plantation era contributed. But without a way to get the goods to market (think port here, please), South Carolina would not have been the leader that it was and still can be.

I recently heard Senator Leatherman give opening remarks as the chief Delegate to the Southeast U.S./Japan trade conference in Tokyo, juxtaposed alongside Governors and Secretaries of Commerce from seven other Southeastern states. He said some great things in his remarks about South Carolina. But how can you discuss international trade and not mention the SC Ports Authority and the Port of Charleston?!

Everybody in South Carolina talks about the need for jobs and has an eye on foreign investment as a means to make these jobs happen. We praise the Dubai announcement in Orangeburg County and hold BMW out as the State's poster child for economic development. But without the Port of Charleston, would these be realities in South Carolina?

There is no doubt that we will have to continue to improve and expand our highway systems in order to support Port growth. One attractive thing about the Port of Charleston is how quickly the container trucks can hit the open road (Interstate Highways) delivering the goods. A terrific rail access and interstate system is what helped Dubai make its decision to locate the inland port in Orangeburg, I'll wager.

Some highlights that I would love to see SC Governor Mark Sanford, Sec. of Commerce Joe Taylor and Senators like Hugh Leatherman be able to cite off the cuff: 1) The history of the port at Charleston; 2) 45' deepwater-plus channel to handle the largest container ships in the world; 3) 3 container terminals with one new terminal under construction; 4) tremendous private investment in distribution centers around the Charleston area to handle distribution functions at no cost to the state; 5) averaging 41 container moves per crane per hour; 6) two hours or less to open ocean sailing.

The Port of Charleston is a jewel in the State of South Carolina's crown. Use it to make South Carolina shine on the world stage. I can assure you that Virginia, Georgia and Florida all held their ports out as shining examples of their states being "OPEN FOR BUSINESS" to companies like Sony, Canon and Toyota.