The State Ports Authority is going to great lengths to prepare for the bigger ships that are plying local waters.

Aside from its efforts to deepen Charleston Harbor to 50 feet, the maritime agency's board this month approved $789,522 to modify plans for the design and construction of two new cranes to make them taller.

Last year, the board approved $24.9 million for the two new so-called Post-Panamax cranes, which are being made by Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries in Asia and are to be delivered in the summer of 2015. The new cranes will be 25 feet taller than initial plans, making them 392.5 feet tall when its boom is up, port officials said.

Post-Panamax refers to vessels that are too long or wide to navigate the Panama Canal before its widened in a couple of years.

Originally approved for the SPA's North Charleston Terminal, the retooled cranes will be dispatched to Mount Pleasant instead to accommodate the larger container ships that call routinely at the Wando Welch Terminal.

"The ships are getting bigger and taller, and that affects everything in our port," said Jim Newsome, SPA president and CEO.

Three of the existing cranes at Wando Welch will be shipped to the North Charleston Terminal.

Right turn

Herbert L. Drayton III of Charleston noticed his front office employees were answering several phone calls each week from lost clients trying to find the Carolina Center for Occupational Health in North Charleston where he is vice president and health services administrator.

He thought it was chewing up time that employees could use for other tasks.

So, he created a software application called Stonzthrow. It helps businesses deliver directions to lost clients' smartphones in two steps.

The app works by sending a text link to the customer's cell phone number. Businesses that routinely have to provide directions to customers can use the application by entering a cellphone number on the user interface and clicking send. The customer clicks the link and opens turn-by-turn directions straight to the business' door.

The product was initially tested over two days by a local physician's office where 19 calls were fielded for directions, ultimately benefitting from the new app.

"We were surprised at the initial response," Drayton said. "It's proven valuable in providing customers a simple solution to a frustrating situation while also saving staff time to devote to other tasks."

The app can be found at and costs $10 per month for up to 500 "stonz" or uses.

Burning idea

A Mount Pleasant real estate agent and a couple of business partners have a burning idea they think will become profitable.

Marshall Deutsch, who works for The AgentOwned Realty Co., and two others, whom he asked not be identified, formed Geechee Energy LLC in 2010 and want to build a $70 million wood pellet mill in Georgia.

Pending financing, the Ogeechee River Pellet Mill will break ground later this year near Millen, Ga., and start producing 360,0000 metric tons of wood pellets each year by early 2016, Deutsch said. Millen is about 70 miles northwest of Savannah.

The massive plant would employ 50 people and encompass about 25 acres on a 75- to 100-acre tract off U.S. Highway 25. The rest of the land will be used for storage of raw materials and other uses.

The plant will use mill shavings, forest residue from land clearing and other operations and pulpwood as feedstock. It is working on details with feedstock providers, Deutsch said.

Most of the product will be sold on the European market, but domestic areas along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains are also a target because of the colder climate and need by some for auxiliary heating sources.

Geechee Energy chose the Georgia site because of the availability of raw materials and its proximity to the Port of Savannah, Deutsch said.

Coast to coast

The Florida-based company that designed Boeing South Carolina's 1.2-million-square-foot final assembly plant in North Charleston will also design the aerospace giant's 1 million square feet of facilities for the new 777X twin-engine passenger jet in Everett, Wash.

BRPH, an international architecture, engineering design and construction services firm with a regional office in Charles- ton, has been selected by the Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer to design the facilities over the next five years, says BRPH spokeswoman Kimberly Eye. The program will be managed out of BRPH's Renton, Wash., office with minimal support from the Charleston office, she said.

Initial plans will focus on the design of a composite-wing fabrication facility and related supporting infrastructure.

Boeing decided to build the 777X in Everett after the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in the Pacific Northwest voted in January for huge contract concessions, including elimination of a long-fought-for pension program that will be replaced.