It all starts with logistics Companies, academia look to work together

The Port of Charleston is a key player in the state’s logistics industry. CEO Jim Newsome told a conference Friday that it’s “useless” to invest in the port “unless we can improve the roads and the connectivity throughout the state.”

South Carolina is upping its stake in the global marketplace through trade and manufacturing, and its future growth is contingent on developing local talent and strengthening logistics.

That was the message delivered during the inaugural S.C. Supply Chain Summit hosted by the College of Charleston School of Business on Friday.

The all-day event was intended to kick-start collaboration between academia and companies to help develop a strategy to meet the needs of businesses that rely on the efficient, rapid movement of goods in the state.

The summit included officials from heavyweights such as BMW and Boeing Co., as well as from smaller firms like locally based trucking company Bulldog Hiway Express.

State Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said a thought-out plans for the supply chain and logistics industry is important because it can help the state attract new business.

“Logistics means jobs in South Carolina, and its just as simple as that,” said Hitt, a former BMW executive. “Suppliers are essential to the manufacturing industry and our industrial renaissance in South Carolina.”

He added that the transportation, distribution and logistics industry creates 44,000 jobs in the state. That included 15 deal Commerce announced last year that contributed 2,200 jobs, he added.

Hitt said the state is working on an integrated transportation, distribution and logistics plan to be released later this year.

The growth in logistics also must include partnerships with colleges to develop training programs for future workers, officials said Friday.

College of Charleston President George Benson said the school is seeking ways to work with companies to “think together about how we can move forward and leverage those assets.”

“The college must support and develop incubators to spawn new businesses and new degrees to help support the segments of the economy,” Benson said.

Jim Newsome, chief executive of the State Ports Authority, said a cohesive link between industry and academia will be critical.

“This is about connecting the dots between logistics education and companies and how we can make the come together to benefit South Carolina,” Newsome said. “Logistics is an increasingly sophisticated profession, and we have a deficit in terms of sophistication in the logistics business.”

Newsome highlighted the growing cargo base of Port of Charleston, but it must work with railways, trucking businesses and others to get goods to and from the waterfront quickly and efficiently.

“To just invest in the ports is useless unless we can improve the roads and the connectivity throughout the state,” he said.

Newsome highlighted the state’s low gas tax, which could be increased to fund infrastructure improvements.

Philip Byrd, president of Bulldog Hiway Express, pointed to the need in South Carolina for more qualified truck drivers and college graduates with deeper knowledge of the industry.

“You have to understand our capabilities so you can effectively sell them and increase commerce,” Byrd said.

Reach Tyrone Richardson at 843-937-5550.