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« Return to News S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt (L) and Deepal Eliatamby, P.E., TDL Council chairman (R).

S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt (L) and
Deepal Eliatamby, P.E., TDL Council chairman (R).

Eliatamby Chairs TDL Council Transportation summit

March 13, 2012

TDL sector driving jobs, economic growth

By Chuck Crumbo
ccrumbo@scbiznews.com
Published March 21, 2012

COLUMBIA — To make his point about the importance of logistics to the state’s economy, S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt tells of a conversation he once had with the CEO of a major tire company.

“I am a logistics company that produces tires,” the CEO said to Hitt.

Developing a strong transportation, distribution and logistics network that supports manufacturing can drive the state’s economy and create jobs, said officials attending a transportation summit in Columbia this week.

“Without an effective transportation and logistics network in this state, we cannot support all of the other very important industries that are moving into the state today, as well as the expansion of BMW, Michelin and Bridgestone,” George Patrick, deputy secretary of the S.C. Commerce Department, said at the 2nd annual New Carolina TDL Council Summit.

South Carolina’s TDL industry involves some 2,600 firms that employ more than 44,000 workers, Patrick said. The industry’s payroll totals $1.7 billion.

Recent investments by Amazon, Tire Kingdom and QVC have helped cement the state’s reputation as a logistics hub in the Southeastern United States. Between 2006 and 2011, more than 11,000 new jobs were created and $1 billion invested by TDL companies building or expanding in South Carolina.

According to the council, there are 73,500 transportation and warehousing jobs in South Carolina outside of the sector, plus 44,000 people who work directly for the industry.

How the TDL sector can drive growth and create jobs may well depend on the ability of the Port of Charleston to get its harbor dredged deep enough for the big ships that will be flowing through the Panama Canal in 2015, officials said.

Anticipating the arrival of big ships, the S.C. State Ports Authority is in the midst of $1.3 billion in expansions and infrastructure improvements, said State Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome.

“We have to expand the cargo base,” Newsome said, adding that the port’s ability to handle the bigger ships is essential to develop it into a regional port — one that serves the Southeastern United States.

Deepening the harbor, which is expected to cost $300 million, is an essential part of the expansion project, Newsome said.

The big ships, which can hold more cargo, will be coming to a deepwater port on the East Coast because that’s where the majority — about 70% — of the U.S. population lives, Newsome said.

The deepening project, presently in the study phase, is expected to take between five and eight years. The study began last June, and the ports authority is covering the costs of the study.

“We want to be the preferred port for our customer base,” Newsome said.

The March 13 summit in Columbia drew more than 200 people representing all phases of the industry including shipping, railroads, trucking, warehousing, supply chain logistics, contracting and development.

Now, said Deepal Eliatamby, council chairman, the group will get behind efforts to come up with a statewide multimodal transportation plan.

“We’ve got to look at this from a holistic standpoint,” said Eliatamby, who’s president of Alliance Consulting Engineers, Inc. in Columbia.

“We have to get funding for deepening of the port,” he said.

“That’s absolutely critical. BMW wouldn’t be here, Michelin wouldn’t be here, Continental wouldn’t be here,” Eliatamby said, “if the Port of Charleston wasn’t here.”

Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-401-1094, ext. 204.

For more information, visit www.charlestonbusiness.com.