Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Inland port on horizon

By Robert Behre (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SANTEE — Melvin Bannister stood outside his house and was asked to imagine how his rural community might change when Jafza International begins building here next year.
Photo Gallery

Corridor of Hope

When U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn ran for re-election in the fall, he said improving the Interstate 95 corridor was his 'obsession.' 'That is one of the major arteries in our country, and to have the stretch in South Carolina the poorest, least educated, most unhealthy communities in our state, that's an abomination,' he said. The election of Clyburn and President Barack Obama provides new hope. The Post and Courier visited four communites along I-95 -- Dillon, Florence, Santee (and Orangeburg) and Walterboro.

Jerome Prosser bails rows of Switchgrass.

Enlarge photos | View gallery

He hasn't seen the plans, but he knows the Dubai-based company, a subsidiary of Economic Zones World, plans to build on a sod farm close to his family's homes and about 26 adjoining acres they have leased to a cotton farmer.

Bannister said he knows older residents have lived here for a while, "and they ain't rushing to move."

But the enormous project could be the single biggest game changer for economic development along Interstate 95, one of the poorest parts of South Carolina.

The plan from Economic Zones World, which owns Jafza International, would establish a campus of light manufacturing, warehouse and distribution operations, creating a sort of inland port that could employ more than 3,000 people by the time it starts operations in 2012.

"Jobs-wise, it will be something in the long run (that will be) good for the community," Bannister said. "Right now, we're just waiting for when somebody comes along and says something to us, then we'll go from there."

The prospect of Jafza's arrival and the creation of an inland port here is a partial culmination of something U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn has pushed for since he first got elected from South Carolina's 6th District in 1992. Clyburn has called the I-95 corridor his "obsession."

Years before Clyburn was elected to Congress, he served on Gov. John West's staff and saw a memo about how industrial developers were steering prospects away from Interstate 95 and toward Interstate 85, largely because they feared the minority population along I-95 would be more receptive to unions.

"It was all part of the anti-union movement — who is inclined to join unions?" Clyburn said. "That's why all the development is up along the I-85 corridor."

Clyburn said the I-95 corridor also didn't have a big advocate until he was elected in 1992 as the state's first black congressman since Reconstruction.

He noted that the Jafza project has been made possible only after he helped establish the Lake Marion Regional Water Agency, which currently provides water to the Santee community.
Corridor of Hope

Read the series on improving economic condidtions along the I-95 corridor from The Post and Courier.

When work began on the water plant, Clyburn called it one of the most significant events he has ever been involved with. "For some residents, this is the first step toward quality drinking water and for some communities, it is the first step toward attracting much-needed economic investments," he said. "Just as transportation infrastructure is the asset that will drive the economy along the I-95 corridor, the lack of this crucial puzzle piece in other areas of this region has contributed to the most pronounced negative conditions in remote areas of this region."

Gregg Robinson, executive director of the Orangeburg County Development Commission, is one of the county's greatest cheerleaders, and he is acutely aware of how Jafza's plans could reshape the public perception of business opportunities along I-95.

"Our mission is to increase the quality of life. How you do it is quality payroll," he said. "When you look at the 95 corridor, it's one of the poorest, least- developed corridors in the nation, and we have the opportunity to fix that. They're not making any new land on I-85."

To keep Jafza on track, Orangeburg County and Santee plan to work with federal and state governments on two new pieces of infrastructure for the area they're now calling the "Global Logistics Triangle," the land bordered by Interstates 26 and 95 and U.S. Highway 301.

That work includes a new $11 million sewer treatment plant planned by the Lake Marion Regional Water Agency, as well as a redesign of the I-95 and U.S. 301 interchange.

John McClauchlin, a project manager with the Orangeburg County Development Commission, noted that local voters already have indicated they are willing to chip in, approving a continuation of the county's local sales tax that's expected to provide about $71 million to help with 115 different projects.

As the pieces fall into place, Robinson said the project could transform the southern part of the county.

"What Jafza offers, what the economic zone offers, is so different," he said. "They currently have 6,000 customers. They're creating a linkage to the world for us. It's not a typical developer. These guys are the biggest and the best in the world, especially with the acquisition of Gazeley, the international arm of Wal-Mart. ... Their contacts list is tremendous."

Santee Mayor Silas Seabrooks Jr. said his town with fewer than 1,000 residents could see 3,000 new jobs within the next four years.

He said the only things that might not change are the town's golf courses and its lake — and hopefully its image as an oasis for recreation.

"The rest of it will change," he said. "You will have negative feedback as well as positive. That comes with the territory. Anytime you grow, you've got growing pains."

But Seabrooks said he is confident the project will help the town's morale.

"I would like to see some of the kids who graduate out of college come back home and work, get a job and pay something back to the society," he said.

As the Panama Canal gets widened and more ships seek ports along the East Coast, and as Charleston's port expands, Seabrooks might get his wish.

"It's coming up 26," Robinson said. "We're in the path of progress, so we've got to get ready for it. ... We're fortunate because we have a lot of land."

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771 or rbehre@postandcourier.com.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Jafza, other developments are No. 3 story of 2008

By DIONNE GLEATON, T&D Staff Writer Sunday, December 28, 2008

“Going Global, Acting Local, Coming to the Table – Vision 2020” was the theme of Orangeburg County’s economic development summit held in November.

It included the much-anticipated unveiling of the Dubai-based Jafza International’s master plan, which was presented by Steve Eames, executive vice president for operations of Jafza Americas Inc. and Jafza South Carolina LLC.

Jafza, a subsidiary of Dubai World, first announced in September 2007 its intent to invest between $600 million and $700 million in Orangeburg County near Santee.

Plans call for a 1,300-acre logistics, manufacturing and distribution park that could mean about 6,000 direct jobs.

The master plan will include a 20-year market-demand analysis, an environmental-impact study, a traffic impact study, a wetlands study and an endangered-species study.

Jafza said it planned to begin the permitting process by year’s end and to break ground in October 2009. The company hopes to have its first clients open for business in 2010.

Announced in February were plans to create a 1,200-acre business center near Bowman by Charleston-based World Trade City Orangeburg LLC. The business center is anticipated to draw $1 billion in investment and bring 1,000 jobs over a 10- to 15-year period.

World Trade City plans a mixed-use logistics center touted as an “International Standard Modern Commercial Industrial City,” which will combine office and exhibition space with warehousing and distribution facilities.

WTCO Chief Executive Officer Jimmie Gianoukos said that the project is still very viable and is being advertised around the world, but the souring economy has impacted development.

“We’re not quite ready to start on it yet, but we’re still bullish on it. We feel very confident that at some point and time we will come out of the ground with it.

“Everybody likes the idea, it’s just a matter of it being the right time. Hopefully, with a little bit of luck, we’ll be able to get something up this summer or fall of this coming year,” Gianoukos said.

“I think everybody’s holding everything close to the vest right now. It’s definitely alive and being worked on. We feel very much like it’s just a matter of time before we’re going to launch it.”

T&D Staff Writer Dionne Gleaton can be reached at dgleaton@times anddemocrat.com and 803-533-5534. Comment on this and other stories at www.TheTandD.com.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

S.C. counties to benefit from neighbor’s ‘big score’

By Charles Taylor
SENIOR STAFF WRITER for the National Association of Counties

Change is on the horizon along a stretch of Interstate 95 in rural South Carolina that has come to be known as the “corridor of shame.”

County officials attending a recent regional economic development summit in Orangeburg County got a preview of a major project that many hope will lift this area’s fortunes and change its nickname to “corridor of fame.”

ImageJafza International, a company based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, plans to invest $600 million to build a distribution hub near the town of Santee in largely rural Orangeburg County. It’s a place where good jobs are scarce and the poverty rate is high, thus earning its unflattering moniker.

The site is in an area dubbed the “Global Logistics Triangle,” bordered on three sides by Interstates 95 and 26, and U.S. Route 301. This “inland port” would receive shipments from the Port of Charleston, the second busiest on the East Coast, about 60 miles away.

For local officials who attended the Orangeburg County Economic Development Summit last month — where Jafza unveiled its master plan — it is the culmination of more than a decade of regional cooperation.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House Majority Whip who represents the area, has called the development a “game-changer.” When fully built-out, Jafza estimates the project could create some 3,700 new jobs by 2020 and thousands more spin-off jobs. Currently, the unemployment rate in Orangeburg County, population 92,000, currently hovers around 12.5 percent, compared to 7.5 percent statewide, according to Gregg Robinson, the county’s economic development director.

Twenty-one percent of the county’s residents lived below the federal poverty level in 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — compared to 15 percent statewide.

For Orangeburg and five neighboring counties, attracting Jafza’s first U.S. venture can be traced back in large part to a joint effort — over more than a decade — to develop water infrastructure.

Orangeburg and the counties of Berkeley, Calhoun, Clarendon, Dorchester, Sumter, and the town of Santee, worked together to create the Lake Marion Regional Water Authority. Its facility provides 8 million gallons per day, which is enabling development in this economically depressed region.

“That has really been the one thing that has solved the capacity issue for this whole area of I-95,” said Bill Clark, Orangeburg County administrator. “We have just never had the water and wastewater infrastructure to support development along this triangle.”

Jason Ward, Clark’s counterpart in Dorchester County, to the south, said, “We’re kind of literally doing community development through the Lake Marion regional water agency, as well as industrial development.”

The $30-plus million waterworks began operating about a year ago, and Clark said the project “required all of these six counties to learn how to work together for the good of the whole.”

“It’s the result of better than a decade worth of prioritization of our limited resources,” Clark added, “and a whole host of collaborations that we developed with our municipal entities in our county, our neighboring counties and most critically, local imposition of a 1 percent sales tax to be able to put in the infrastructure that made the [Jafza] project possible.”

Orangeburg County voters have twice approved the penny-per-dollar tax whose proceeds helped fund the water authority, and other economic development and community enhancement projects.

Orangeburg and Dorchester counties’ fates are intertwined along their shared border — between lower Orangeburg and upper Dorchester — where the counties “share very similar unemployment stats,” Ward said. Overall, Dorchester County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, less than 6 percent. But in the northern part of the county, “unemployment is 9.5 percent and over 22 percent for African Americans,” he said.

The area also has a high school dropout rate 10 percent higher than the statewide average, Ward said.

To improve its outlook, and the region’s, Orangeburg has developed other cooperative agreements with counties, said Robinson, the county’s economic development director. For example, Orangeburg and Dorchester are conducting a joint study of I-95 and I-26 to determine which exits are suitable for industrial development. “The idea is, Dorchester benefits from what we do, and vice versa,” he said.

The two counties are also collaborating on a multi-county industrial park. South Carolina allows counties with “underdeveloped” industrial tax bases to jointly build industrial parks with counties whose tax bases are more developed.

Dorchester is considered to be more developed than Orangeburg, Ward said, and the partnership allows Orangeburg to receive an additional $1,000 in state Commerce Department jobs tax credits per job created.

“…As a result of that, any project that lands in an area that is designated as a multi-county industrial park in Orangeburg pays 99 percent of its fee in lieu of taxes to Orangeburg and 1 percent to Dorchester,” Ward explained.

Robinson said three other counties are collaborating to create a “mega-site” of more than 1,000 acres — Clarendon, Sumter and Lee counties. “It’s not [located] in all three counties, but it’s close enough” to benefit them all, as well as Orangeburg County, Robinson said. “There’s nothing that would benefit me more, or Jafza when they bring in their [suppliers].”

Ward summed it up: “Our fates are definitely tied together, and it is a regional approach and one that I think is really going to pay big dividends for our citizens.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Jafza to set up free trade zone in India

posted on 21/12/2008
Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (Jafza), the flagship brand of the world's biggest developers and operators of economic zones and business parks, Economic Zones World (EZW), will set up a free trade warehousing zone (FTWZ) at Raigad, in Maharashtra, India.
Jafza has been given an ‘in-principle' clearance by the Board of Approval in the Commerce Ministry for setting up a SEZ on the country's western coast.
The SEZ to be built over an 85.12-hectare area will host free trade warehousing firms, provide state-of-art logistics to companies doing trade and business with companies across Asia, the CIS and Africa.
"FTWZ would position India as an international centre for trading,” said LB Singhal, Director, Export Promotion Council – EOUs and SEZ.
While India's merchandise trade is expected to grow up to US$500 billion (Dh 1,837bn) in the current fiscal, it suffers from the lack of global standard logistics such as warehousing. However, the absence of such facilities in the midst of growing trade offers business opportunities to investors in the area of logistics.
Jafza is expected to extend its vast knowledge and experience from its Dubai operations and from other parts of the world.
Jebel Ali Port in Dubai is a part of DP World, which is the fourth largest port operator in the world.
Jafza spans 49 square kilometres and is situated between Jebel Ali Port – the world's seventh largest seaport – and the upcoming Jebel Ali International Airport, the world's largest cargo airport near Dubai International Airport.
In its 21 years of operation, Jafza has posted more than 300 times growth in its number of companies expanding from 19 in 1985 to about more than 6,000 in 2007.
When the FTWZ in Maharashtra, India, is developed, it will be able to give partners an easy and quick access to many ports across Asia, the Commonwealth of Independent States as well as Africa. – Emirates Business

Monday, December 15, 2008

Why is S.C. State's Transportation Center still unfinished?

By LEE TANT, T&D Staff Writer Sunday, December 14, 2008

South Carolina State University President Dr. George Cooper says completion of the James E. Clyburn University Transportation Research and Conference Center on campus is his highest priority.

“I want to get it done as soon as possible,” he said.

Congressman Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the U.S. House majority whip, said he thinks “very little” of the progress made thus far to get the project bearing his name off the ground. The multifaceted project had a ceremonial groundbreaking in October 2005.

To date, the Clyburn Center has not seen any vertical construction. But the site work -- which includes clearing land, roads and removing existing infrastructure -- for the project has recently been completed.

S.C. State was first granted a university transportation center (UTC) in 1998 when Congress passed sweeping national transportation legislation. It was later named in honor of Clyburn by the S.C. State Board of Trustees.

University officials say issues with meeting the state’s water-pressure standards, hiring a construction firm and completing a traffic study are halting construction.

They hope the first bricks will be laid soon.

Clyburn, an S.C. State alumnus, believes the brick and mortar for the project should have come together a long time ago.

“I just don’t believe, by any stretch of the imagination, that if any of the other publicly supported institutions had gotten this transportation center, it wouldn’t be up and running by now,” he said.

Clyburn doesn’t believe the funding he’s already secured for the center is in jeopardy, however he said he “will not seek additional funding for this project at South Carolina State until the administration commits sufficient time and professional attention to it.”

Cooper says the university’s ability to move forward with the project has been hampered by the state’s procurement regulations. He could not provide a definitive date as to when the Clyburn Center would be fully up and running.

Cooper said he is frustrated by the procurement process and doesn’t fully understand it or the reason for the holdup.

He said the university has $27 million to go forward with the first phase of the 33-acre project on the campus near Russell Street.

The Clyburn Center will house a research center, university offices, archives, executive guest suites and a conference center.

Complete Article

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

‘Santee Town Center’ a dream, becoming a reality

Martha Rose Brown
Assistant Editor Santee Striper

“It’s really just getting started,” said Ron Nester Sr., the attorney representing Santee Ventures LLC, an investment group located in Santee, “and it may take 10 years to blossom.”
Nester recently sat down with this newspaper reporter to outline details of “Santee Town Center,” a residential and commercial development soon to be underway near the intersection of Bass Dr./Hwy. 15 and Old Number Six Hwy. in Santee (including the Centerpointe neighborhood).
Included in the project are the following totals: 169,400 sq. feet of commercial space; 6,900 sq. feet of amenities; 246 apartment units; 80 units in a quadraplex; and 112 units of single-family residences.
The area for “Santee Town Center” includes land on both sides of Old Number Six Hwy. and Bass Dr./Hwy. 15 for a total of 76 acres.
“It will be a pedestrian-friendly area, complete with four parks,” Nester said.
“In other words, it will reduce the reliance on a person’s automobile and allow a person to spend more time in their own neighborhood,” he explained.
Nester said that Santee Ventures LLC began working together last year, but officially formed just a few months ago.
The initial phase of developing “Santee Town Center” will include the demolition of the Tastee Food Restaurant and Mansion Park Motor Lodge.
Dates for demolition of these structures has not yet been set, Nester said.
In early half to middle of 2009, Nester said Santee Ventures LLC will likely be adding office buildings to an already existing mini-office park – which would create a larger business park.
The immediacy of the development of “Santee Town Center” depends partly on Jafza South Carolina’s schedule for construction of a container port and light-manufacturing facility at the intersection of I-95 and Hwy. 301.
Nester said he and Santee Ventures LLC investors are looking forward to watching Santee grow and develop a cozy and thriving “Santee Town Center.”
To receive updates about Santee developments, access a weblog maintained by Ron Nester Jr. at www.santeesc.blogspot.com.

Roads, bridges could be built under Obama plan

By LEE TANT, T&D Staff Writer Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Local agencies are getting their wish lists in order in case President-elect Barack Obama’s proposed economic stimulus plan becomes a reality. It could pump billions into road, bridge and other infrastructure projects across the nation.

If enacted, Obama’s plan could cause long-discussed local projects such as improving the U.S. Highway 301/Interstate 95 interchange to become a reality sooner rather than later.

“I’m confident the needs in our region are just as severe and as much-needed as any other community in the country,” said Wayne Rogers, executive director of the Lower Savannah Council of Governments.

With the infrastructure needs in the region, he thinks local projects stand “a very good chance” of receiving significant funds from a potential economic stimulus package.

He does caution, “We may not get everything we ask for.”

Obama told the Associated Press that “shovel-ready” projects would get first priority under his plan because they would instantly create jobs. No dollar amount has been assigned to the plan at this time.

Rogers said his office is putting together a list of “ready-to-go” projects in the region for the federal government to consider funding under Obama’s plan. “Ready-to-go” projects are projects that have cleared regulatory hurdles but are awaiting funding.

Projects in Bamberg, Calhoun and Orangeburg counties include:

n An interchange on Interstate 26 at the Calhoun County Industrial Park.

n Interchange improvements at U.S. 301/Interstate 95 in Orangeburg, which are estimated to cost $60 million. Jafza-South Carolina has said the improvements are needed for its planned $600 million logistics/industrial park, which could create more 3,700 direct jobs over the next 12 years.

n Widening U.S. Highway 78 in Orangeburg and Bamberg counties, which has an estimated $64 million price tag.

n Making the I-95/I-26 interchange more functional by creating a full cloverleaf-shaped exit ramp, making wastewater improvements and other changes at an estimated cost of $150 million.

n Adding $6 million in water lines to areas adjacent to I-26 and I-95.

n Adding a rail spur for the Orangeburg County Industrial Park.

Rogers believes the construction could be a catalyst for short- and long-term economic growth.

“We’re not talking about frivolous things. This has the potential for future growth. ... It will create more jobs for communities in the area,” he said.

U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C, will focus on using any stimulus money for infrastructure projects along the I-95 corridor, according to spokesperson Hope Derrick. In addition, Clyburn wants to move forward with the next phases of existing projects.

“It is too early to talk about specific projects that will be included in the bill,” Derrick said via e-mail.

The S.C. Department of Transportation has two local items listed on its tentative economic stimulus “ready-to-go” project list. Projects on the list are ready to begin construction within 180 days.

The final list will be have to be approved in January, SCDOT spokesman Pete Poore said.

One item is the $17.5 million bridge replacement on U.S. Highway 78 at the Edisto River in Orangeburg and Bamberg counties.

Another local SCDOT project would replace four bridges in Calhoun and Richland counties over the Congaree River and swamps along U.S. Highway 601. That project will cost an estimated $41.5 million.

Statewide, SCDOT has more than $800 million in “ready-to-go” projects on its list.

State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, thinks Obama’s plan would “put people to work” and jump-start the economy.

However, Gov. Mark Sanford is opposed to another economic stimulus plan.

“Every penny of it would be borrowed. ... We don’t think it’s fair to pass along debts to future generations,” Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said.

n T&D Staff Writer Lee Tant can be reached by e-mail at ltant@timesanddemocrat.com or by phone at 803-534-1060. Discuss this and other stories online at TheTandD.com.

Monday, December 1, 2008

S.C. ranks sixth in nation for home value appreciation over the past year

From the Charleston Regional Business Journal

Staff Report
Published Nov. 25, 2008

South Carolina ranks sixth in the rate of appreciation for single-family homes over the past year, according to third-quarter statistics released Tuesday by the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Nationally, home values dropped 4% from the third quarter of 2007 to the third quarter of 2008, the report said. During that time in South Carolina, values rose 2.42%.

The nation’s 4% four-quarter decline was the largest four-quarter drop in the history of the index, which started in 1975.

The quarterly report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency is based on sales and refinancing data for existing single-family homes. Transactions included in the data are conforming, conventional mortgages purchased or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

The report ranks states and metro areas only by yearly changes, but it also lists value changes for the third quarter of 2008. Those quarterly numbers are negative for most states and metro areas.

During the third quarter, home values dropped 0.45% in South Carolina, compared with a 2.68% drop nationally.

Among metro areas ranked by appreciation from third quarter 2007 to third quarter 2008, the Augusta-Richmond County MSA, which covers parts of South Carolina and Georgia, was No. 2 in the nation. The area, which saw values increase 5.48% over the year, fell behind only the Austin-Round Rock MSA in Texas.

The Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville MSA came in at No. 65, with 1.37% appreciation over the last year. The area’s values fell 0.30% during the third quarter of 2008.

The Columbia MSA is listed at No. 24, with 2.92% appreciation during the year. For the quarter, home values dropped 0.05%.

The Greenville-Mauldin-Easley MSA was No. 9 in home appreciation during the past year, at 4.55%. For the quarter, the Upstate MSA saw home values drop 0.61%.

Also in the Upstate, Spartanburg was No. 11, with a 4.12% appreciation rate over the year and a 2.2% increase in the third quarter. Anderson was No. 39, with 2.28% appreciation over the year and a drop of 1.86% over the most recent quarter.

“The impact of foreclosures and tightening credit conditions weighed heavily on house prices in the third quarter,” FHFA Director James B. Lockhart said.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Orangeburg County counting on Jafza development

By Molly Parker

Economic Zones World’s plans to lay some 4 million square feet of warehousing and distribution space in Orangeburg County by 2020 is a long-term goal that requires looking past current economic conditions.

But even in the short term, the excitement around the company based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, might have economic benefits for the rural county that are hard to measure.

Called “derived externalities,” the spin-off from subsidiary Jafza South Carolina LLC’s planned industrial park is the retail, housing and other businesses that are looking to secure a place in what is being billed as the state’s future trade hub.

“People will say, ‘Wait a minute. Here’s one of the best in the world and it’s chosen an inland spot in South Carolina. What are we missing?’ ” said Gregg Robinson, executive director of the Orangeburg County Development Commission. “Why does Lowe’s follow Wal-Mart? Because they know it will be successful.”

The buzz is creating interest outside the state, Robinson said, with a business on the West Coast having called recently about an existing speculative building it found while researching Orangeburg County after hearing about Jafza’s plans.

“That’s what’s so great about the impact, because the quality-of-life issues are those derived externalities,” Robinson said.

A lot is riding on Jafza’s blueprint.

‘Corridor of shame’
The logistics development is planned for an area along Interstate 95 that has been called the “Corridor of Shame” because of the high unemployment and poverty numbers the communities register.

Economic developers and political leaders who gathered in November at the 2008 Orangeburg County Economic Development Summit trumpeted the project as the economic engine that will pull one of the state’s poorest areas out of the doldrums.

“We will develop the wheel today to move these communities forward,” said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., one the event’s keynote speakers.

Clyburn said he first started working on a project such as this for Orangeburg County during his initial bid for Congress in 1992. Bringing it to fruition meant scrapping conventional wisdom that the area’s residents were destined to remain in poor conditions, he said.

Looking past the economy
The company plans to turn Orangeburg County into a place where goods from the Port of Charleston are stored and prepped for shipping across the East and Midwest. The location makes sense, planners say, as the Port of Charleston expands its capacity with a new terminal on the former Navy base and inland Charleston is relatively tight on space for this type of project.

Steve Eames, Jafza’s project manager, said that in a dozen or so years, the facilities in Orangeburg County would be able to handle 660,000 20-foot-long shipping containers a year.

By that year, Eames said, the development would have created an estimated 3,765 jobs in Orangeburg County and an additional 1,500 jobs across the state.

But with all the bad economic headlines of late, it’s hard to envision a rural Santee sod farm turning into an international logistics center any time soon.

Eames said the company is moving forward with confidence that market conditions will turn around.

“Let’s get ready for the wave, ’cause it’s coming,” he said.

At the summit, Eames laid out a rough sketch of the company’s development plans, which will be rolled out in phases until 2032. The majority of buildings would be up by 2020, a year Eames called “not too hazy.” At least some facilities, he said, will be out of the ground by 2013. Jafza plans to start designing horizontal infrastructure next year and begin site preparation in late 2009.

Getting in early
Some of the parties interested in securing a piece of the action aren’t waiting until then. The Miller-Valentine Group completed a speculative warehouse facility this fall inside the Orangeburg City/County Industrial Park.

Colliers Keenan, which is charged with leasing or selling the 150,183-square-foot building, notes its proximity to Atlanta and the Interstate 85/385 corridor, but also the major Jafza development that’s on the way.

“Orangeburg will soon be home to the fastest-growing port operator in the world,” broker Hagood Morrison said.

Jafza is a subsidiary of Economic Zones World that aims to create industrial and logistics parks around the world to serve its diverse customer base. The park in South Carolina would serve as Jafza’s entry into the United States, Eames said.

Orangeburg’s Robinson said the company’s potential success in the United States outside of South Carolina would further help solidify Orangeburg’s position in the global supply chain.

“I’m all for it,” Robinson said.

Reach Molly Parker at 843-849-3144.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Limehouse: State DOT contracts costing less than estimated

Staff Report
Published Nov. 24, 2008

An otherwise grim economic landscape has had at least one bright spot for taxpayers: State highway officials are getting more bang for the buck on road and bridge improvements.
Buck Limehouse Jr
“This will allow us to move further down our priority list of projects for critical needs across the state.”
H.B. "Buck" Limehouse Jr., S.C. Transportation secretary

The state Department of Transportation’s highway and bridge construction contracts awarded from August through October have come in at $15 million less than estimated.

Transportation Secretary H.B. “Buck” Limehouse Jr. attributed the savings to economic and market conditions that have increased competition among contractors.

The DOT’s experience mirrors the slump in the construction industry. On Friday, the state Employment Security Commission reported that the jobless rate had soared to 8% in October, the highest rate in 25 years. The job shrinkage was led by the construction sector, which has shed 18,600 jobs in the past year.

The recent drop in fuel prices has reduced costs for contractors and also contributed to the lower bids, Limehouse said.

In August, 34 projects were estimated at $61 million. Bids from contractors for all 34 projects were $54 million, $7 million less than the estimate.

In September, 25 projects as a whole were estimated at $42 million. Bids from contractors were $42 million.

In October, 34 projects that as a whole were estimated at $69 million. Bids from contractors for all 34 projects were $61 million, $8 million less than anticipated cost.

“This will allow us to move further down our priority list of projects for critical needs across the state, such as highway resurfacing or bridge projects,” Limehouse said. “Any money saved will go directly toward our state’s transportation system.”

Limehouse said transportation revenue, which comes primarily from gasoline user fees, is down 5% for the fiscal year beginning July 1 when compared with last year. Revenue in September was down 8% compared with the same month in 2007.

Limehouse said DOT administrative cost savings of $18.7 million will be used to maintain highways and bridges.

Charleston Launches Distribution Center Portal – PortCharlestonDC.com

Oct 17, 2008
Bernard S. Groseclose Jr.

Additional 20 Million Square Feet in Development to Double Industrial Space

CHARLESTON, SC - October 17, 2008 - More than 20 million square feet of Class A industrial space is in development within 30 miles of the Port of Charleston. Now, the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) has launched a new tool for importers, exporters and logistics companies to join Charleston’s rapidly expanding distribution center cluster.

A new Web site, www.PortCharlestonDC.com, shows how Charleston’s industrial space is set to double in the next six years. Hillwood, Trammel Crow, Johnson Development, Rockefeller Group, Pattillo Construction, Childress-Klein, Lauth and others have already launched major spec building projects.

One million square feet came on the market recently and has been absorbed. Developers are expected to bring three million square feet online in 2009.

The new Web portal provides project and contact details, as well as intelligence on the Port of Charleston’s distribution and industrial market.

“Everyone is competing for access to the Southeast region,” said Bernard S. Groseclose Jr., president & CEO of the SCSPA. “Based on the tremendous investment we’re seeing, the private sector has great confidence in Charleston’s role as the gateway to the Southeast region. Charleston offers a powerful mix of new port capacity, the deepest channels and superior access to a growing Southeast market.”

The South’s population is projected to expand 43% by 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The region is a well-established industrial zone with significant production, considerable foreign direct investment and expanding consumption.

Driving the impressive push in private-sector investment is the Port of Charleston’s unique combination of natural and operational advantages. Charleston offers the quickest and most reliable access to the I-85 corridor, which includes the commerce and trade hubs of Raleigh, Charlotte, Greenville/Spartanburg and Atlanta.

Distribution and international transportation are an important focus of the state’s economic development strategy. The state offers incentives to encourage increased international trade, and recently, the S.C. Department of Commerce added a senior project manager to work on industrial investment and the recruitment of distribution and logistics centers.

Beyond the 20 million square feet in the Charleston market, several major projects are underway in close proximity to the port, including in the Orangeburg “Global Logistics Triangle” about 60 miles from Charleston. Projects in this area include Jafza USA’s 1,300-acre site near the intersection of interstates 26 and 95.

The Port of Charleston can accommodate post-Panamax ships today, making it particularly well-positioned for trade following the expansion of the Panama Canal. In addition, construction of a new container terminal in Charleston Harbor is underway, which will boost port capacity by 50%.

“If you are an importer, exporter, 3PL, or site selection consultant, you need to know what’s happening in Charleston,” said Groseclose. “The level of commitment and investment is impressive, and we look forward to serving new cargo accounts through these projects.”

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rural town ambivalent about change Jafza could bring

By GENE ZALESKI, T&D Staff WriterSunday, November 23, 2008

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ELLOREE -- The Town of Elloree's Web site contains the slogan: "Small Town, Big Ideas."

But some are hoping this small, rural town will be able to keep its attractiveness as a big idea takes hold of nearby Santee.

"I would love for my town to stay an agricultural town," said Keitt Brandenburg, owner of Brandenburg Radio Service. He says he is not too happy about a foreign company investing in the area and bringing more traffic and people to the sleepy town.

"I would not have sold an inch of land if it belonged to me," he said.

Jafza South Carolina, a subsidiary of Jafza International, announced last week its plans to develop a $600 million logistics-industrial park near Santee. The 1,322-acre, five-phase park will include light manufacturing, a public intermodal facility, a truck plaza, warehousing and mixed-use offices and commercial spaces.

The Dubai-based company estimates the project could create about 3,700 direct jobs in the county over the next 12 years and between 1,500 to 2,500 indirect spin-off jobs.

Elloree Mayor Van Stickles says he is all in favor of the Jafza project.

"We want to be an attractive town and a nice place for people to live," he said. "On the economic side, it will make us more attractive for businesses to come and make the downtown area even more alive than it is now."

Stickles, who has lived in Elloree since 1979, said he has seen the town come full circle. Its ongoing downtown revitalization project has created an eye-pleasing town for potential investors.

"We want to be good neighbors to the Jafza project," he said. "We want them to be good neighbors to us."

But Brandenburg, a self-described "old timer," said in his estimation the town peaked about 25 years ago and has declined ever since. He says more people bring more crime.

Stickles said he understands the concerns about the project's potential impact on the Elloree community.

"We could double in size and we would still be a small town," he said. "There is a percentage of people attracted to the small town life that we offer. This is still what we want. We will always have our own identity being Elloree."

Bob Hickman, a longtime Elloree resident and real estate agent, said "At this point in time, there would not be an overwhelming sentiment, not a majority sentiment, of people who would want to see major transformations in Elloree."

"Not that they are against growth but there will be a continuous concern ... amongst the people who lived there and spent their life in that area," he said. "Some people are concerned about the kind of growth that would result in substantial changes to Elloree and their lifestyle."

As a real estate agent, Hickman said he has seen interest in the Elloree market growing.

"I personally know of developer-type of people who are more and more looking at Elloree as a place where they can see a lot of potential and even more of a potential in the future," Hickman said. "Elloree's future largely relates to the revitalization of the downtown area and the historic areas."

As part of this development, earlier this year Hickman and Phil Roland partnered in the planned development of a 32-acre tract of land located on the eastern edge of town. Barkley Place will be a gated community with 60 two- and three-bedroom homes.

Hickman said the engineering and infrastructure work on the Barkley Place project are ongoing with an active marketing campaign planned for the spring of 2009.

"We have more people in the last few months inquiring about the possibility of Elloree," Hickman said, noting most of the property in the Santee area has already been tied down. "It is a natural situation ... that people start looking beyond the immediate vicinity of Santee. It is recognized that Elloree is an attractive area in itself."

Corner Store Elloree Diner owner Raj Patel said he is keeping an open mind and cautiously optimistic attitude toward the Jafza project and its potential ripple effects on the town.

"I have not seen a change," Patel said when asked about the town over the past two years since his arrival. "But I do think people will be able to get the jobs over there (in Santee) and that will expand the economy here locally."

T&D Staff Writer Gene Zaleski can be reached by e-mail at gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or by phone at 803-533-5551. Discuss this and other stories online at TheTandD.com.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The good stuff: Water is South Carolina's most precious and strained resource

The Lake Marion Regional Water System's treatment plant located is located off S.C. Highway 6 near Santee. (Photo/Jim Huff, Santee Cooper)
By Lydia Dishman
Contributing Writer

Bud Badr’s voice is the kind that falls welcomingly on the ear, much like a good, soaking rain falls on parched earth.

Badr laughs easily and often during conversation, which is a good thing when you consider that as the chief hydrologist of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, what he’s talking about it is a serious issue — drought.

The availability of water in South Carolina made headlines all summer, especially with regards to business.

Once upon a time, the textile industry boomed in South Carolina, in part because of the availability of water. Though the textile manufacturers have pulled up stakes, several other industries took their place, including automotive and advanced materials. Most recently, Google and mega-logistics operations, such as Jafza International, have put down roots in South Carolina, and all the companies require a plentiful water supply.

With all that economic growth, the state’s population has more than doubled in the past 50 years, bringing the total to more than 4 million thirsty bodies.

Some other facts to consider:

Even though 99% of the state’s water is underground, because of convenience and availability, surface water from rivers and lakes is the source for the major water suppliers in the state.

We share water with North Carolina and Georgia because, even though South Carolina contains all or most of four major river basins, the headwaters of the two largest are in North Carolina and another is in Georgia. This complex issue has already triggered U.S. Supreme Court involvement to ensure that North and South Carolina share the water fairly.

No limitations exist as to the amount of water that can be withdrawn from a river, and groundwater withdrawals are regulated only in coastal counties.

“The question is,” Badr asked, “How much water do you really need?”

He explained that South Carolina has gotten an average of 48 inches of annual rainfall for the past 100 years. “We lose about 36 inches for evaporation,” he said, “leaving approximately 20 inches available in our streams. If we don’t use that, it goes to (the) ocean.”

Badr took a deep breath and continued. “South Carolina’s total use is 5 inches per 31,000 square miles, of which 98 percent is used by hydropower, then by municipalities. If we have that average rainfall, then we have four times what we need — but it doesn’t mean we have it when we need it, because of floods and droughts, and more users with more demand.”

Rainfall is 30% lower than normal and stream flows are at historic lows, according to Badr, which is precisely why we are where we are now.

Badr has co-written a plan for water use in the state, which says in part, “Water is a limited natural resource and is a major factor for economic development.” It also states, “There are regional and temporal variations in the amount of available water and in the demand for water, and there are both intrastate and interstate competing demands for that water.”

To avoid over-allocating and to know how much is available for all sites for future use, Badr said that DNR will be working with the Department of Health and Environmental Control on permitting.

David Baize, assistant bureau chief at DHEC, said, “Droughts are hard to deal with; they cause a lot of grief. But they are typically shorter-term events, even though we’ve been in and out of one for the past 10 years. Dealing with the effects of drought and water management planning can overlap, but they are not necessarily the same thing.”

Page 2

Linking schools, housing: Developer says that’s key for new communities


Columbia businessman Don Tomlin is proposing a new way for developers statewide to do business: make sure large-scale residential projects have schools linked to them.

Tomlin, who developed Lake Carolina in Northeast Richland, among other projects, pledged that he would never again spearhead a major residential project without making schools a centerpiece of the planning.

He urged others to do the same during a meeting Wednesday on schools and real estate with State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex and about two dozen developers, public education advocates and legislators. Tomlin and Rex gathered the group to discuss ways to build innovative environments for learning.

“I’m not going to count on luck again,” said Tomlin, saying he was simply lucky that “great” schools were already part of the landscape at Lake Carolina and in Charleston, where he and his brother developed Park West, a 1,700-acre residential community.

The idea stems, in part, from Tomlin’s frustration with trying to collaborate with local school leaders on master plans for new developments.

But he said he also has been a witness to public school choices that work — such as charter schools and magnet schools, enabling entire communities to benefit.

Good schools drive up property values, Tomlin said.

“The real estate industry needs to give back to education,” he said. “More than making houses, and making lots, they need to innovate, and spend the time, effort and money into education.”

Leaders at the meeting were attentive, but pointed out many concerns with creating the kinds of developments they hope for.

Mainly, developers said they constantly fight a negative perception of their goals. Relationships with local school boards, school funding constraints and lack of legislative incentives also are concerns.

But Rex was encouraged that the two dozen leaders who gathered were willing to do something to help.

They understand, he said, “that you can’t have great communities without great schools, and that that needs to be a part of their concept from the very beginning.”

The concept reportedly is working in Denver, Colo, where education officials and real estate developers are building multimillion-dollar projects that include schools, community services and homes for struggling areas.

That effort was spearheaded by a developer-led nonprofit group, the Foundation for Educational Excellence.

Key players in that effort helped the group see how it could work in South Carolina, something Rex and others say is possible.

Gregg Robinson, executive director of the Orangeburg County Development Commission, said it’s time to consider and do such options in South Carolina.

“We’re seeing some of our brightest students leave,” he said.

Partnerships with businesses, developers and schools can change that, Robinson said.

“What helps sustain communities — is it education or is jobs?” he said. “It’s really one big thing.”

Reach Woodson at (803) 771-8692.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

SPA posts a good October

Container volume up 6% over same month in '07

The Post and Courier
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bucking a trend of falling container volume, the S.C. State Ports Authority Tuesday reported a nearly 6 percent increase for October compared with the same month last year.

That's especially significant because perennial rival Savannah, which saw a 15 percent increase in volume in the latest fiscal year, while Charleston lost 10 percent, dropped more than 6 percent year over year for October, local officials said.

Bernard Groseclose, the SPA's chief executive officer, said the upswing last month was reflected in every area of local port business.

"I'm very cautious about a celebration, because it's one month, but I'm also somewhat encouraged by the fact that we're not seeing quite the decline being seen in other ports," he said.

SPA officials reported at a board meeting Tuesday that volume is down 2.3 percent between July and October compared with the same time last year, but that other ports are feeling a greater strain.

Groseclose said the SPA was hurt so much in the fiscal year that ended in June largely because of the business decline experienced by its largest customer, Maersk Line.

He said the SPA's advantage now comes from its various trade routes and the economic buffer created by that diversity. If the agency relied solely on Asian cargo, for instance, current trends would be less optimistic, he said.

"My hope is that we've seen in our trade a bottoming out and can prepare ourselves for some turnaround," Groseclose said. "I'm not suggesting we're at the beginning of this trend and business is going to continue to escalate. I think what we're hearing from our customers is it's going to be some time before we're going to see some real pickup."

He said he doesn't expect any notable changes until "well into next year."

Across the U.S., 2008 is expected to be the slowest year for cargo volume since 2004, according to the National Retail Federation. Projections put total volume down more than 7 percent for the year.

In other business, the SPA board said it will begin accepting bids Thursday for a major security enhancement project at the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant.

The multimillion-dollar project will include new infrastructure and electronics, such as "intelligent video surveillance." That means cameras around the terminal would filter out birds flying by but zero in on individuals walking the perimeter.

Federal maritime security regulations put in place after Sept. 11 are the impetus for the project, according to port officials. The SPA will receive $4 million in federal funding.

The board plans to award a contract in December.

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or abird@postandcourier.com.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Interchange options

By GENE ZALESKI, T&D Staff ReportMonday, November 17, 2008

As the Jafza South Carolina project in Santee moves forward, officials say a key component of the infrastructure is development of the interchange at U.S. Highway 301 and Interstate 95.

Currently, the interchange south of Santee is considered a “Texas diamond,” though not like the more traditional diamond-shaped interchanges such as Exit 139 on Interstate 26.

Randy Young, S.C. Department of Transportation Midlands regional production engineer, said of the four interchange options looked at by the DOT over the past year, a traditional diamond interchange would be the most likely “modification” for I-95/301.

“We have not narrowed down an exact interchange,” Young said. “It will depend on our continuous traffic report and the traffic data we gather. “A diamond interchange is the one you start with as the simple design.”

Young said there is no time line as to when construction will begin.

“We are still analyzing the schedule,” Young said. “There are a lot of variables that we will review and nail down before we can estimate when construction will start.”

SCDOT had initially identified four design alternatives for the interchange with a cost of between $37.2 million and $56.8 million, depending on the design. A diamond-shaped interchange would fall on the lower cost estimate at approximately $40 million.

Currently, about $9 million – $3.92 million in federal monies, $3 million from SCDOT and the Lower Savannah Council of Governments, as well as $2 million from the Orangeburg County capital project penny sales tax – have been allocated. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says there is more money coming in from the federal government.

About $1 million more is pending in the Senate for 2009. There is nothing yet pending in the House, said Andrew King, Graham’s liaison to the Jafza project.

“Infrastructure needs to be developed. ... That includes roads, water, sewer and the interchange,” Graham said Wednesday during the Orangeburg County Economic Development Summit, noting that rail will also be a key component. “We can’t rely on trucks. Congressman (James) Clyburn is one of the most powerful men in the House in the history of the state. I am trying to do my share in the Senate.”

Graham said funding beyond the $1 million already earmarked in 2009 depends on needs.

“Whatever money we spend here is going to pay off by a factor of many,” he said. “This is the best investment you can make in this part of South Carolina. It will be up to the private sector to develop the property, but we can help with the road, water, sewer and the interchange to make it a place where the company can do business and be successful.”

“Consider us a partner, but a partner that will not get in your way,” Graham told those gathered during the summit’s morning session. “You give us the game plan, tell us where we need to play and we will fulfill our assignment.”

Alternatives under review include a diamond interchange, a partial cloverleaf and two additional partial cloverleaf designs that include fly-overs in two different configurations.

Transportation officials have estimated that $2 million will be needed in the first year for preliminary design work.

Depending on the start date of the actual work and the design chosen, the estimated amount of money needed for following years is roughly $4 million, $13 million, $13 million and $6 million, respectively.

The price of each of the four alternatives includes a short extension of U.S. Highway 301 near Santee.

County economic development officials have cited the need for a reconstructed intersection, not only for the Jafza project, but also because Santee has just opened a new convention center.

Orangeburg County Administrator Bill Clark said options for the interchange are DOT’s decision. All are still under review.

“They will come forward with a series of public hearings and bring that down to the community and show it to everybody and answer questions,” Clark said. “In the interim, we will construct a secondary access road in the property and access the property from the south. We have two options under review for that as well.”

The access road will allow construction crews to move through the area.

No cost estimate or specifics on the options have been determined.

n T&D Staff Writer Gene Zaleski can be reached by e-mail at gzaleski @timesanddemocrat.com or by phone at 803-533-5551. Discuss this and other stories online at The TandD.com.