SC’s inland port open for business in Greer

South Carolina's new $50 million inland port near Greer began operating this week, providing a global shipping hub in the upstate that's expected to eliminate tens of thousands of trucks making the journey on busy Interstate 26 between the Greenville-Spartanburg area and the coast.

"The inland port is open for business," Jim Newsome, the president and chief executive officer of the South Carolina State Ports Authority told reporters on Tuesday. That word came moments before the authority board approved an additional $2.7 million to pay the final costs for the project.

The facility off Interstate 85 provides a place where shipping containers can be transferred to and from trucks for the journey by train to and from the state's coastal ports.The project was announced in January of last year and construction began last March.Some of the additional money approved Tuesday covers work to complete the project when the schedule was hampered by about 75 days of rain from this year's unusually wet spring and summer. Workers also unexpectedly encountered rock on the 90-acre site, adding to construction costs.

The authority's share of the project is about $44 million with Norfolk Southern Corp. providing $7.5 million.The original Ports Authority estimate was about $25 million, but officials decided to develop more of the land than originally planned. Now about 40 acres are paved to handle and store containers while the rail yard comprises an additional 10 acres or so.

The agency owned the land when plans for the inland port were announced.Newsome said that BMW, which has a vehicle assembly plant in Greer, is already shipping thorough the inland port. Other customers will start using the facility next month and all construction is expected to wind up by year's end."I continue to believe it's going to be a major global distribution-related hub in the Upstate," Newsome said."I like our location. I wouldn't trade locations," he added. "If you think about it you're 150 miles from Atlanta, you're 100 miles from Charlotte, and you're 150 miles from Kingsport, Tenn."Initially, he said, by using rail an estimated 25,000 truck trips along Interstate 26 to the coast will be eliminated. "I have said pretty consistently if we don't have 100,000 within five years, I'll be disappointed," he added.

The inland port is a key part of a 10-year, $1.3 billion plan to improve the state's port facilitiesNewsome says there will likely be a formal opening ceremony in the next few months.Key state officials, including Gov. Nikki Haley and the state's two Republican U.S. senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, attended the groundbreaking last March.

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.