Charleston Regional Development Alliance

Berkeley, Charleston & Dorchester Counties

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New company sees distribution advantages at I-95, I-26 intersection

Dec. 1, 2005
Charleston Regional Business Journal
By Holly Fisher
Even though the Port of Charleston is growing considerably each year, the number of trucking companies is shrinking. It is a dilemma for businesses shipping to and receiving from the port. Containers must be removed from the port in a timely fashion to avoid fees, but many businesses can’t handle an influx of 100 shipping containers in one or two days.

Southern Port Services has a solution. This new transportation and logistics company is making plans to open a facility in upper Dorchester County as a way to meet the needs of Charleston’s growing port traffic.

The company has purchased roughly 100 acres near the intersection of Interstate 95 and Highway 178 near Rosinville and St. George and about two miles from the intersection of I-95 and Interstate 26.

Southern Port Services is preparing to build a 144,000-square-foot warehouse with 80 dock doors.

The warehouse will have two purposes, serving as a cross-dock facility and a container staging location, explained David Blackmon, Southern Port Services president. By having 100 acres, Southern Port Services can temporarily store empty and full containers, delivering them to businesses in piecemeal fashion.

This allows companies to avoid the daily charges of leaving their containers at the port. Southern Port Services, using a few of its own drivers and owner/operators, can deliver the containers to businesses in a more manageable fashion—maybe five or 10 at time, Blackmon explained.

The warehouse also will be a cross-dock facility in which trucks pull up to a loading dock and goods are removed, often processed, and then reloaded onto other trucks for delivery to the marketplace.

Blackmon’s new company is solving a problem by providing “greater flexibility and capacity to serve the import and export product flow issues,” he said.

He also pointed out the benefits of being located so close to the intersection of I-95 and I-26. Whether trucks are headed to Atlanta, Knoxville, Tenn., Charlotte, N.C., or Raleigh, N.C., the intersection is the first point of convergence of these interstate roads; it is the first place they disperse from the import side, Blackmon said.

Blackmon initially looked at property on Clements Ferry Road to be closer to the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant. But the high cost of the land and the inability to secure a large tract prompted Blackmon to look farther north. As he did his homework, he found I-26 and I-95 is the “place to be,” he said.

There is an assumption it is more costly to be located far from the port, but Blackmon said that’s not the case. It is a cost-neutral, sometimes cost advantageous, situation to be located at I-95 and I-26, he said.

For example, if a company is paying a truck driver by the mile, that company saves money because goods are already located 44 miles inland, so that’s 44 fewer miles the company has to pay the truck driver to transport goods, Blackmon said.

Dorchester County Economic Development Director Jim Friar said Southern Port Services, with its more than $5 million investment, leads the way for similar developments in upper Dorchester County.

“From our perspective, this project would aid the Port of Charleston and provide initial opportunities for Dorchester County to have a distribution facility at the intersection of I-95 and I-26, which currently we do not have,” Friar said.

“What we are beginning to see in the upper part of Dorchester County is a greater interest for industrial sites. Available land for large distribution and manufacturing facilities has become a premium commodity in lower Dorchester County. Land prices have gone up, and companies are looking at land in upper Dorchester County, which is less expensive.”

Blackmon is leasing a 50,000-square-foot warehouse in Eastport Industrial Park in Summerville while the new facility is being built.

He can provide distribution and transportation services from Summerville but won’t be able to stage containers until he relocates to St. George, sometime in the next six to nine months.

Southern Port Services will employ 50 people in the region over the next two to three years, including some company truck drivers, fork lift operators, dock workers and clerical staff.

Blackmon has experience in the transportation and logistics industry. His father owns Blackmon Warehouse Systems Inc. in North Charleston, and Blackmon has also been on the customer side of the trucking business.

“I have a pretty good idea of what’s missing in the market,” he said.

The Port of Charleston grew 14% last year, he said. That’s an almost unfathomable scenario.

“While the port has a double-digit growth rate, the footprint for trucking companies is shrinking,” Blackmon said.

Blackmon plans to take his concept of a cross-dock facility and container staging to other areas of the Southeast, including Savannah, Atlanta and some railroad depot cities. His St. George facility will be the company headquarters.

“With the dynamic growth of the port and the new port (planned for North Charleston), there’s a level of optimism about the port’s future to be a Southeastern gateway,” Blackmon said. “We came here first because Charleston is the best place to start.”
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