A Charleston company that maintains shipping containers and the trailers that truckers need to haul them is expanding to the new inland port in Dillon, the latest investment driven by the cargo hub along Interstate 95.
Container Maintenance Corp. plans to spend $11.5 million and hire 54 workers at a new site that will feed off the State Ports Authority property. The company will fix containers and chassis. It also will repair and maintain other equipment used at the inland port, which opened in April.
The Clements Ferry Road business plans to begin operations in Dillon by October. It offers similar services at the Port of Charleston and the SPA's other inland port in Greer.
"Our state has made a name for itself in the world of logistics, due in large part to our ability to efficiently transport products and goods across the globe," Bobby Hitt, South Carolina's commerce secretary, said in a statement. "The addition of Container Maintenance Corp.'s facility in Dillon County will ensure that we continue to excel in this area."
The $50.5 million Pee Dee inland port is a transfer point where trucks and trains exchange cargo containers filled with goods destined for points north along I-95 or — if headed in the other direction — to markets overseas through the Charleston waterfront about 130 miles away.
The Dillon site is along a CSX Corp. rail line. The Upstate inland port is served by Norfolk-Southern.
The SPA expects the Dillon site to move about 40,000 cargo containers during its first full year of operations.
The port's inland expansion is spurring economic development in a region that has historically had some of South Carolina's highest unemployment and poverty rates.
Dillon County hosted a half-dozen groundbreaking ceremonies in 2017 for businesses creating more than 1,000 jobs.
Among the highlights was a $200 million expansion at the Harbor Freight Tools distribution center located near the inland port. Harbour Freight was the inland port's launch customer, with International Paper and KB Biotech also announcing plans to use the inland port.
Other potential customers include distribution centers for retailers and and area poultry producers.
Jeff McKay, executive director of the North Eastern Strategic Alliance economic development group, called the inland port "a game changer for the region," adding it "will forever change the logistics of our region and will generate business opportunities that have not previously existed."
Groups from Dillon and Marlboro counties also are teaming up with developer Agracel Inc. to build a 110,000-square-foot speculative warehouse without a tenant in hand. Local officials say there are plans for two more "spec" buildings.
The state Coordinating Council for Economic Development helped Container Maintenance with its Dillon project, approving a $50,000 grant to help pay for the costs of site preparation and building construction.
The company's expansion "is a direct result of the inland port and represents a positive return on the investment our county made in the port," said Stevie Grice, chairman of Dillon County Council.