CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Congressman Mark Sanford toured Port of Charleston terminals with other U.S. representatives Friday to talk about that growth and improving both transportation and infrastructure.
"This hit all aspects of transportation and infrastructure that we're looking at. It's important for us to see as we make priorities across the country," U.S. Representative Jeff Denham said. Menhaden is the republican congressman for California's 10th District.
Sanford said the trip is to see first-hand how important Charleston's terminals are to the local and regional economy.
"Charleston is a vital cog in the southeast economic apparatus and the nation as a whole," Sanford said. "We had all of the different stakeholders that gave very thorough briefs, in terms of the latest, the deepening in Charleston, the additions we're seeing to boost port capacity."
The South Carolina Port Authority is coming off of a record-breaking fiscal year for growth from July 2016 to June 2017. That growth is measured in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), a common measuring standard for cargo ships.
"We handled a record 1.2 million TEU. That broke our record from 2005," SC Port Authority's Barbara Melvin said. Melvin added they saw 10% growth over the last year and anticipate another 5%. They expect even more when the new Leatherman Terminal is completed in 2019 in North Charleston. It is expected to expand port capacity by 50%. "It's growth that we planned for. It's growth that is necessary. It's to meet the demand of our customers. It's coming right in time."
According to the SC Ports Authority, one in every eleven jobs in the state is made possible by the Port of Charleston.
Expansion will lead to job growth not only locally but across the southeast.
"It's a national priority to make sure we're investing in these types of transportation and infrastructure projects. The Port of Charleston is a model for the country," Representative Bill Shuster said. Shuster is the republican representative for Pennsylvania's 9th District.
"It's nice to see how they're used on the ground and this is a good watermark to how government should operate at the speed of business," Representative David Joyce added. Joyce is the republican representative for Ohio's 14th District.
As Charleston continues to expand, Sanford says it's imperative to keep its southern charm.
"I think the notion conservation and preservation need to go simultaneous with growth," the congressman concluded.
The tour comes on the heels of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee preparing to take on the re-authorization of the Water Source Development Act. This bill gives the green light to critical army corps projects in 17 states, including South Carolina. The Transportation & Infrastructure plan to take on the re-authorization by the end of the year.