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Councilman: Inland port ‘10,000-pound gorilla’


By Bill Poovey
bpoovey@scbiznews.com
Published Jan. 29, 2014

Anderson County Councilman Francis Crowder said the community needs to step up its economic development pitch to keep up with tougher competition in the Upstate. He said other counties have spec buildings, construction-ready sites and infrastructure already in place. And now there is the new S.C. Inland Port.

“If you are a world class industry, what would you look at first? Would you look at Greer, or would you look at Anderson?” Crowder said.

Anderson County Councilman Francis Crowder talks about economic development needs. (Photo by Bill Poovey)
Anderson County Councilman Francis Crowder talks about economic development needs. (Photo by Bill Poovey)

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“The inland port, I see it as a 10,000 pound gorilla. Obviously BMW loves it, because they are the No. 1 customer for the inland port.”

—Francis Crowder, Anderson County Council

While economic development officials in Oconee, Laurens, Greenville and Spartanburg counties describe the $47 million rail-truck transfer station at Greer as an asset for all of the Upstate and beyond, in western North Carolina, East Tennessee and north Georgia, Crowder described it as a huge competitor.

Crowder said Anderson is also competing for jobs against communities closer to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, and now the inland port, which has started operating as a key shipping link for BMW Manufacturing Co.

“The inland port, I see it as a 10,000 pound gorilla,” Crowder said. “Obviously BMW loves it, because they are the No. 1 customer for the inland port.”

Crowder said that for an exporter or importer, “well … you want to be around the inland port.”

Jonathan Coleman, deputy director of the Laurens County Development Corp., said the “inland port is an asset for the whole Upstate.”

“I wouldn’t consider us competing against Spartanburg because of the inland port,” he said. Coleman said the facility, which is about 15 miles from Laurens County, “gets stuff to the Upstate at less cost instead of trucking something all the way to Charleston. I think it’s an asset for our whole region.”

Coleman said Laurens County has a 50,000-square-foot spec building that is expandable to 400,000 square feet. He said a spec building sold to a company that opened in 2012 has since been part of an expansion announcement. Coleman said Laurens County announced 515 jobs and $220.1 million in capital investment in 2013.

“Our job is to promote Laurens County,” Coleman said. “We are all members of the Upstate Alliance. Most of the time we don’t compete against each other.”

In Spartanburg County, economic developers announced 1,211 new jobs and capital investment totaling $113 million in 2013. Carter Smith, executive vice president of the Economic Futures Group, said the inland port is in the county but is an asset for the Upstate and surrounding states. He said it is attracting attention from logistics companies and manufacturers.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say it is competition,” Smith said.

Crowder said other counties and “other states are developing readiness to give us competition.”

Crowder at a January council meeting commended Burriss Nelson, Anderson County’s economic development director, for efforts that led to 887 new jobs and capital investments totaling $87 million announced in 2013.

Despite that success, Crowder said Nelson had told him “he had five or six requests, and we didn’t have the inventory.”

“Well if you don’t have inventory, you don’t have nothing to sell,” Crowder said. “So you’ve got to develop a strategy of how I’m going to build my inventory and offer it to be able to meet the future marketplace, so we can continue to attract jobs and drive down the unemployment rate.”

Nelson said officials have secured financing for the county to build its first spec building, and a site is being sought.

“You’ve got to have product to sell,” Crowder said.

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