The strong business ties between the port of Charleston and Upstate manufacturers have long been recognized as a key feature of the South Carolina economy.
Now the South Carolina Ports Authority has numbers to underscore the point.
A new study credits state port facilities and the companies that use them with an estimated $53 billion “economic impact” across South Carolina – more than 9 percent of the state’s annual gross state product.
More than half of the impact, about $27 billion worth, occurs in the Upstate, according to the study.
The reason more of the impact occurs in the Upstate is because manufacturers are the primary users of port facilities, and there’s a greater concentration of manufacturing in the Upstate than any other region of South Carolina, according to the study by Joseph Von Nessen, a research economist at the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business.
In the Upstate, manufacturing accounts for 15.3 percent of all jobs, compared to 11.5 percent for the state as a whole, according to the study.
Included in the economic impact figures are the business activities of port users that require a port facility to be completed.
In the Upstate, port users include BMW Manufacturing Co., which exports about 70 percent of the cars it makes at its factory near Greer.
Other big port users in the Upstate are Greenville-based Michelin North America, which uses the port of Charleston to import rubber and export earthmover tires, and General Electric Co., which uses the port of Charleston to export power turbines made in Greenville.
Port officials released parts of the study relevant to the Upstate during a meeting of the Ports Authority board Wednesday.
They refused to publicly release parts of the study pertaining to the Midlands and the Pee Dee regions because they intend to use the information for self-promotion during board upcoming board meetings in those regions.
Normally, the Ports Authority board meets at the authority’s headquarters in Charleston, but Wednesday the focus was on the Upstate and the board met at the ZF Group chassis plant in Duncan.