Barack Obama’s Charleston Two-Step
NOW THE PRESIDENT IS SHOWING SOUTH CAROLINA’S PORT SOME LOVE? PLEASE …
After failing to included funding for its dredging project it his executive budgets (and working with S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley to push forward port expansion projects in other states), U.S. President Barack Obama is now suddenly all about the port of Charleston.
You know … now that the taxpayers of South Carolina are shelling out $300 million to complete the project.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Obama’s administration has designated Charleston as one of five ports where “work will be expedited.” They’ve even got a catchy title for this so-called expedited work – “We Can’t Wait” – although it appears as though we will have to wait until 2020.
First of all, we don’t think any government (state or federal) should be in the business of funding projects like this – although we recognize that Haley’s controversial appeasement of Georgia’s port expansion plans (a.k.a. the “Savannah River Sellout“) left South Carolina lawmakers with no choice.
Which is why we endorsed the $300 million project.
Far more problematic than the harbor deepening – which port officials expect to be completed closer to 2018 than 2020 – is the Palmetto State’s lack of competitiveness when it comes to getting containers quickly offloaded and en route to their intended destinations.
South Carolina is currently getting crushed by Georgia, Virginia and other domestic competitors when it comes to rail access to port facilities – and Haley has (surprise, surprise) been busy gumming up those works as well. In fact most of the port observers that we talk to tell us the deepening project is actually a secondary concern when compared to Charleston’s rail problems.
At the end of the day, South Carolina may well have already lost this battle. Charleston’s competitive position has plummeted over the last eight years, and Haley’s “sellout” is a death knell for the Port of Jasper – which was to have leveraged private capital for a container terminal on the last deepwater port site on the Eastern Seaboard.
A free market window made itself available … and our state (quite literally) missed the boat. Then Haley came along and basically torpedoed our best chance to catch up.
“It’s a great day in South Carolina …” to fall further behind the rest of the nation.