Study: New cruise facility will create 336 jobs, $43M economic boost

Charleston Post and Courier
March 10, 2011

It’s a pretty big splash.

In addition to welcoming thousands of tourists to Charleston every week, the State Ports Authority’s new cruise terminal will create more than 300 jobs and make a $43 million economic impact during its year-long construction, according to a new study from the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Business Research.

This month the SPA will select a design team to develop the new passenger building, which will open in the third quarter of next year. The Center for Business Research estimates that the project at the north end of Union Pier will support 336 jobs in the region, with more than half of those in construction work to build the terminal.

Mary Graham, the chamber’s senior vice president of public policy, shared the numbers at a business breakfast Wednesday at the Francis Marion Hotel. She said the redevelopment of the downtown cruise operations would call for workers in fields ranging from retail to transportation to technical services.

“All sectors of our economy will see the impact of this reconstruction,” Graham said.

The $25 million project, unveiled in the fall, followed a year of discussions with residents, business owners and other community stakeholders. The plan takes cargo out of the historic district, shifts cruise business north from its current, outdated facility, and connects Market Street with public access to Charleston Harbor.

Two weekends ago the SPA began handling BMW exports at its Columbus Street Terminal instead of at Union Pier, signalling growth of the German automaker’s local business and a step forward in the Union Pier redevelopment.

The SPA expects about 90 cruise ships to call this year. Agency spokesman Byron Miller shared some statistics at Wednesday’s meeting from a recent passenger survey.

It found that more than four in 10 cruise passengers are first-time visitors to Charleston, that one-third stay in local hotels and that half eat in local restaurants.

Miller noted the need to welcome those new tourists in a facility other than the dilapidated structure currently in use.

“It is anything but representative of the city of Charleston,” he said. “It has been described as West Beirut by some.”

Miller said the SPA issued its bonds in November and, with money in hand, added, “We’re ready to get started.”

The existing cruise terminal and some surrounding SPA-owned properties will be redeveloped into a mix of residential, commercial and recreational uses, but no plans have been finalized.

Anchor tenant

Top five business sectors to see gains from the new cruise terminal building proposed for the SPA’s Union Pier.

Industry / Impact

Construction / $24.3 million

Professional, technical services / $4.1 million

Real estate, rental services / $2.9 million

Manufacturing / $1.68 million

Retail / $1.67 million

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