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SC Commissioner Weathers: State of the SC Ports

The South Carolina Ports have a major impact on the state. Commissioner Weather is here to tell us about it.

A few weeks ago I was in Charleston for the annual State of the Ports update:

  • Our ports generate a nearly $87 billion statewide economic impact each year, according to a new study.
  • The ports support 1 in 9 jobs in South Carolina, which is 260,000 jobs in South Carolina that are tied directly or indirectly to the ports.
  • Port operations and related activities generate $17.6 billion in labor income for South Carolinians, which translates into an average annual income of nearly $68,000 for all jobs supported directly or indirectly by the ports.

Our state ports authority is unique in the extent to which it directly supports local business:

  • Last year, SC Ports exported about $26.9 billion in total cargo volume, with $19.7 billion coming from in-state businesses.
  • So, up to 73.2 percent of all cargo exported through SC Ports originated from companies located in South Carolina.
  • As the study notes, “This level of local business support for export-oriented firms is higher than at any other major container port on the U.S. East Coast.”

Manufacturing is the backbone of the ports’ economic impact, but agribusiness accounts for a solid part of this economic activity:

  • In 2022, 22.6% of exports through the Port of Charleston were forest products – the No. 1 export – and 13.5% of exports were foodstuff and ag materials.
  • Together, agribusiness products make up more than one-third of all exports.
  • Forest products and agriculture accounted for roughly 10 percent of the imports through the same port that year.

South Carolina farmers benefit enormously from a strong port. Going forward it will be our goal to have even more of an agricultural presence with our ports.