Industrial Market Takes Off

Charleston’s industrial market at year end 2010 exhibited stronger fundamentals than comparable southeastern cities. As Boeing construction continues, optimism about the port abounds, and other economic drivers have strengthened.

Port and Distribution

Reflecting the strengthening economy, container count across the southeastern ports rose significantly in 2010 and Charleston recorded an increase of about 17% from the previous year. In order to continue this growth and take advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal, shippers are directing the industry toward the use of larger, more efficient ships. To date, more than three dozen of these larger 8,000 TEU ships have called on Charleston. Yet accommodating these ships presents a number of challenges for seaports. Charleston’s advantages in the competition to attract these vessels are its 48’ draft, wide channel, and the relative short distance between open ocean and the terminals.

In regards to highway transportation legislation, the State of South Carolina recently changed its policy to allow gross vehicle weight containers of 100,000 pounds to travel the state highways, increasing the limit from 90,000 pounds. This allows South Carolina to effectively compete with Georgia in transporting heavy cargo and export cargo.

Manufacturing

The Boeing plant is anticipated to be completed at the end of 2011. It will produce three planes per month and employ up to 3,800 people. Additionally, a new 250,000 SF plant is under construction in Palmetto Commerce Park which will produce interior components of the 787 and employ up to 150 people. Boeing purchased the land and Pattillo Construction is building the facility.

Military contractor growth has stabilized from its exponential expansion over the past few years. Force Protection, one of the area’s largest military contractors, was recently awarded a contract to build the Ocelot vehicle in Great Britain. Charleston defense contractors are anticipating consistent work to be generated storing and retrofitting military vehicles returning from the Middle East.

Businesses in the local automotive and truck industries have also expanded as evidenced by growth in two auto related manufacturers, Wabco and Behr Heat Transfer Systems.

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