Charleston, S.C.- The South Carolina State Ports Authority has a new slogan. It wants to “present you the world and bring it back home,” a ports authority official told regional industry leaders in Charleston during a recent briefing.

“A lot of people talk about South Carolina as that little state. That little state has a big stick,” said Craig Lund, national accounts manager for the South Carolina State Ports Authority.

“We carry it around the world with tremendous pride because industry in South Carolina has achieved levels and accreditation that cause them to be recognized around the world,” he said.

Lund was keynote speaker at the annual Industry Appreciation banquet held at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, which was jointly held by Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.

Lund’s presentation prompted renewed discussions among regional development and industry leaders about bringing the port even “closer to home” by expanding it inland to the Interstate 95, Interstate 26 interchange.

Under the concept, containers from ocean liners would be loaded onto trains and shipped to the inland port, where they would be transferred from rail to trucks. The reverse would be true of exports.

Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said an inland port dovetails directly into Orangeburg County’s vision of making the I-95/I-26 and U.S. 301 regions a “logistical gateway” and “global triangle.”

“We are in full support of it,” he said. “It makes complete sense and it is the right move for the state of South Carolina. It will alleviate the pressure congestion-wise, as well as making us more competitive with Savannah and Jacksonville.”

But the additional handling of the goods would be more expensive.

“It is investing in yourself,” Robinson said. “It makes sense with a ‘c’ as well as with an ‘s’ because it truly does invest back into the state. The port is going to have to have a mid-range solution and an upstate solution to traffic and to the transportation network we have.”

While acknowledging that CSX rail access does not exactly fall at the I-95/I-26 interchange, Robinson noted “it is close.” There are plans to work with Dorchester County in the establishment of a location and in the further development of the region with water and sewer.

“We can make it happen,” Robinson said.

Bobby Kennedy, sales manager at plastic and pellet manufacturer, Southern Warehouse and Distribution Company, said the further development and expansion of the Port of Charleston would seem a wise move in light of recent news that the Savannah Port had more incoming freight than the Port of Charleston for the month of July.

Also, Hurricane Katrina’s impact on the New Orleans port has limited that port’s handling capabilities.

The nature of this expansion inland, however, is something Kennedy says is something that still needs closer examination.

“I would have to believe that anything we can do to generate more freight coming in is going to help,” he said. “The more that comes in, the more that will go out. Whatever we can do to get that started I would think would be a great job.”

Currently, Kennedy said much of Southern Warehouse business is domestic-orientated to companies such as Federal Mogul and Dana Corporation, but the company has recently looked at expanding its market overseas. Discussions have also revolved around the possibility of setting up an inland distribution hub for foreign imports.

An inland port would be beneficial to these plans, said Kennedy.

“How much further up the river they can go to open up warehouses that will give them more space?,” he asked rhetorically. “It will be interesting to see what happens with that.”

The Okonite Co. compound facility plant manager Sherrill Newnam, says a majority of its market is also domestic with the exception of some raw materials arriving overseas.

While Newnam said an inland port would not necessarily benefit Okonite as the ‘volume is not there’, he sees it as helping the overall local and state economy by providing jobs and propelling the development of distribution centers.

“But there is an added cost to that,” Newnam said. “You need to bring in distribution plants that serve as an end point of what comes into the coast. It is an added cost to the shipper.”

Calhoun County Development Commission executive director Pat Black noted that an inland port is something the county does support.

“The Charleston area is finite,” he said. “There is only so much land available. You can’t put out into the ocean. They have to come inland.”

However, Black said much of the promotion of an inland port has been an “Orangeburg County thing.” Calhoun County industries, he says, have made it a priority to support the port’s existing operations.

“It is the best natural port in the world,” Black said. “We need the goods to import and export and come through this area. If not the Wilmingtons, Savannahs and Jacksonvilles will get ahead of us. After all, I-26 does run through Calhoun County and ends at the Port of Charleston.”