Land Sales Lead Recovery
Port and Distribution
The Port of Charleston, the fourth-largest container port on the East Coast, had a positive year in 2011. The container count rose 8.3% to 1.38 Million TEUs during the fiscal year, and in July, the largest container ship ever passed through the Charleston harbor (9,200 TEU MSC Bruxelle). Although the total container count volume is not at pre-recession levels, experts predict sustainable port growth due to population growth and a competitive business environment. Upgrades and other investments should help spur growth, as the SC State Ports Authority has a $1.3 billion capital plan that includes $800 million terminal at the former Naval Base and has also committed $23 million to upgrade the Columbus Street Terminal for break bulk and Ro-Ro cargo. The Columbus Street Terminal experienced a dramatic increase in non-container cargo during the 2011 fiscal year.
The warehouse/distribution market in the Charleston area has continued to improve with gross absorption at 1,915,192 square feet. Overall vacancy decreased from 11.22% in 2010 to 10.64% in 2011. There is a presently shortage of institutional grade, Class A product, with overall vacancy at 4% in the bulk category, but several developers are fully preparing pad sites; the Rockefeller Group-MeadWestvaco Foreign Trade Zone has over one million square feet of pad-ready sites in the park near Jedburg.
Lease rates continue to show positive growth and are currently leasing for approximately $4.40 per square foot for Class A bulk facilities.
Agricultural exports through the Port of Charleston have grown during the year as a result of the Savannah-based Jimco Group establishing a bulk transload operation.
The Palmetto State also earned the title as the nation’s top exporter of tires and automobiles, led by the general export growth of Spartanburg-based luxury auto manufacturer BMW.
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