Thursday, March 4, 2010
C of C president keeps up talk of port issues
From the Post and Courier
College of Charleston President George Benson in 2008 raised more than a few eyebrows when, at a Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce economic outlook conference, he chastised his new home city for not taking better care of its maritime industry.
"There apparently is insufficient support for port growth, even within the region's business community," he said. "That's a problem."
Photo by Grace Beahm
College of Charleston President George Benson, who cut his teeth in academics as a research economist, said he thinks the local port has a bright future but remains largely underappreciated.
When Benson spoke at a Propeller Club of Charleston luncheon last week, he echoed those sentiments, with a little added context.
"Seaports are almost the most invisible sector of our economy," he said. He characterized South Carolina's port assets "underappreciated."
Benson, who previously served as dean of the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, offered a few reasons while a rival port in Savannah caught up with and then surpassed Charleston: Georgia has a strong governor system instead of the fractured power structure operating in South Carolina; lawmakers in Atlanta are farther removed from the people of Savannah, who are most significantly impacted by port-related decisions; and Charleston's larger population means more people scrutinize port decisions here.
Benson credited new S.C. State Ports Authority Chief Executive Jim Newsome with a future that "looks bright" for the agency. He also expressed his support of growing the cruise industry, noting, "The bigger the ship, the more cash and credit cards it carries onboard."