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Study Says South Carolina’s Ports Generate $53B Yearly for State’s Economy

South Carolina’s ports reaped the rewards of the West Coast crisis earlier this year, recording container volume gains long after the congestion cleared, and the southeastern state is poised to maintain solid growth, according to an economic study published Monday.

The report, compiled by Joseph Von Nessen, an economist at the University of South Carolina’s (USC) Darla Moore School of Business, found that the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) generates $53 billion annually for the state’s economy and $6.3 billion for the Lowcountry region in particular.

Based on the total economic impact derived from SCPA facilities in Charleston, Georgetown and Greer in 2014, port-related activities account for one in every 11 jobs in the Palmetto State—that’s $10.2 billion in labor income—and pay nearly 40 percent more than the state’s average annual salary.

In addition, port operations produce more than $912 million yearly in state tax revenue.

“The port is our state’s most strategic asset. It enables South Carolina to recruit and serve the needs of companies with international supply chains and, in doing so, spurs economic development opportunities and generates well-paying jobs for people across the state,” Jim Newsome, SCPA president and chief executive officer, said in a statement, adding, “As SCPA continues to grow our volumes and modernize our facilities, there is no question that our competitiveness will deliver significant benefits to our stakeholders, the people of South Carolina.”

Von Nessen agreed, noting, “The key competitive advantage of the port comes through its ability to facilitate the ongoing development of export-oriented industry clusters, particularly in advanced manufacturing. As these industry clusters expand, they will build a strong, stable foundation for the state’s economy that will generate higher and more consistent rates of economic growth across the state over time, which will benefit all South Carolinians.”

SCPA Chairman Bill Stern said the ports are well-positioned to maintain strong volume growth in the coming years. “By the end of the decade we will achieve the deepest harbor on the East Coast, open a new container terminal on the former Charleston Navy Base and modernize our existing facilities,” he offered.