By Molly Parker
Published June 19, 2009
Donning suits and hard hats, politicians joined officials from MeadWestvaco Crop. and Rockefeller Group on Thursday afternoon as the two companies broke ground on their joint-venture logistics park near Jedburg.
Initial work will begin on road improvements to a one-mile stretch of Drop Off Drive in an effort to make that frontage road ready to handle truck traffic. The groundbreaking also kicks off work on the site pad for the first of four planned buildings. The goal is to create a plot where a building could be erected in a matter of months if a tenant is secured.
“It really — especially today, in today’s financial environment, it takes collaboration to pull off a project like this,” Ken Seeger, president of MeadWestvaco’s Community Development and Land Management Group, said after the groundbreaking during a ceremony at High Cotton in downtown Charleston.
MeadWestvaco originally planned to sell its land there to Rockefeller, but the two groups announced in May that they were partnering on the development. Through its land division, headquartered in Summerville, Virginia-based MeadWestvaco has shifted its real estate focus in recent years and has now entered the development business.
This deal marks the first of its development efforts to get under way.
Ed Guiltinan, vice president and regional director of Rockefeller Group, called the groundbreaking a “significant step” after three years of planning and negotiations with other area developers and Berkeley County officials.
The road work will be done by Banks Construction, the site work by Landmark Construction. Colliers Kennan is handling the leasing for the project.
MeadWestvaco and Rockefeller Group plan to eventually build 2.7 million square feet of warehousing and light industrial space on a 400-acre plot.
Dallas-based Hillwood Development Co. and Trammell Crow Co. also are planning commerce parks in Jedburg, in addition to the facilities already operating there that are owned or have been sold off by Spartanburg-based Johnson Development Associates. In total, the area — considered a prime location because of its proximity to the Port of Charleston and Interstates 26 and 95 — is expected to eventually house a combined 17 million square feet of industrial space.
Hillwood, Trammell Crow and Rockefeller had planned to have speculative buildings out of the ground by now, but the economy has slowed those plans. Guiltinan said that several companies are eyeing the property, though competition for new business is stiff.
Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis called the deal “very exciting,” especially considering the amount of work it took to iron out the details. Those details include a deal in which the four developers, in conjunction with the county and state, agreed to help pay for road improvements.
“This is going to help us out of the doldrums,” Davis said.
In the short term, the road project and site preparation work are expected to create about 45 jobs. But state and local leaders say the buildout of all four industrial parks could create thousands of jobs in the long run.
“We’re going to try to load up the port again,” said Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Goose Creek. “We’re going to try to grow business, and we’re going to try to grow employment.”
Reach Molly Parker at 843-849-3144.