WHILE PALMETTO STATE SOCIALISTS TREAD WATER, CHECK OUT VIRGINIA’S GORGEOUS NEW PORT
FITSNews – September 6, 2007 – That gleaming picture above is the brand spanking new APM Terminals Virginia, a gorgeous, state-of-the-art port facility funded with private dollars that opens for business tomorrow in Portsmouth, VA. Projected to pump an additional $5.5 million in tax revenue into local government coffers each year (in addition to creating 130 new jobs), the $450 million facility is the first phase of a massive $2.2 billion public-private partnership that will more than double Virginia’s port capacity by the year 2017.
Of course unlike our Southern neighbors in Virginia, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina and Texas – all of whom have moved in recent years to expand their port capacity through public-private partnerships – South Carolina continues to tell investors to take their billions of job-creating dollars elsewhere. How come? It’s simple really – our state’s port system (like everything else in South Carolina) is run by a bunch of communist idiots.
Hyperbole, you say? Not really. South Carolina’s good ole boy politicians have known for the past fifteen years that our state’s port infrastructure was in desperate need of expansion in order to keep up with the competition. Unfortunately, instead of partnering with the private sector to build the new facilities we needed, they’ve fought tooth and nail to preserve a “total state control” model that expressly forbids private investment in our port system – making South Carolina one of only two states in the nation to insist on this antiquated, non-competitive structure.
The result? The Palmetto State continues to lose ground to our forward-thinking neighbors in the increasingly-lucrative shipping business, with the Port of Charleston dropping from No. 4 to No. 7 in the nation last year in the amount of container traffic it handled.
In one of his biggest failings since taking office, S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford has ignored ominous industry warnings about our state’s growing lack of competitiveness and chosen instead to leave anti-free market forces in charge of the State Ports Authority board, over which he holds appointment power.
The governor, who claims to support free market port expansion, has apparently been reluctant to put action behind those words given that current Ports Authority Chairman Bill Stern – an anti-free marketer who will probably go down as the worst chairman in Ports Authority history – was a key Sanford fundraiser during the 2006 elections.
This March, the Sanford administration did take a long-overdue step in the right direction by announcing a bi-state partnership with Georgia to build a new port facility in job-starved Jasper County, S.C. According to the bi-state compact governing the development of the new Jasper terminal, private investment in the project is “expressly permitted.”
Still, the cost of delay continues to eat into South Carolina’s bottom line. Just this year, state legislators blew over $160 million of your tax dollars to start construction on a port access road in Charleston – cash that could have gone to tax relief or other more pressing needs had the Ports Authority only agreed years earlier to allow private investment.
Also, after pledging in January 2005 to commit the “full faith and resources” of the state to building a new port in Jasper County, the State Ports Authority instead chose to wage a lengthy (and costly) legal jihad aimed at keeping the project from moving forward.
Sources have even told FITSNews that the genesis of the Georgia-South Carolina agreement grew out of the Ports Authority’s refusal to build a terminal in Jasper – the last deepwater port site remaining on the Eastern Seaboard.
Long hostile to the Jasper project, one Ports Authority board member infamously remarked two years ago that he was “not so sure anything we do will help with that area of the world.”
Hopefully by the time South Carolina figures out its ass from its elbow on port expansion, the current global shipping boom will still be in effect. Unfortunately, the promising window that opened over a decade ago has been squandered, and our state is further behind the eight ball today with respect to its port facilitites than it has been at any other time in its history.
The bottom line is that our inept dawdling with respect to one of our state’s rare competitive advantages and failure to change an antiquated, big government mindset means South Carolina has once again managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.