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It was a busy year for industrial construction in Charleston region

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Speculative warehouse (copy)

This industrial warehouse/distribution center off Interstate 26 near Jedburg is among more than 6.3 million square feet of industrial construction that took place in the Charleston region in 2018. David Wren/Staff 

More than 6.3 million square feet of industrial space was added to the Charleston region's commercial real estate portfolio in 2018, one of the area's busiest years for construction of warehouses and distribution centers.

The new space is more than four times the historical average for industrial construction region-wide, according to Cushman & Wakefield|Thalheimer.

"Sales volume reached more than $250 million in 2018, well above a typical year in Charleston," the commerial real estate firm said in its year-end market report. "Net asking rents continued to increase as well, posting a 4.4 percent annual gain to $5.56 per square foot."

While several more projects are slated for 2019, Thalheimer says the market won't be able to keep up last year's hectic pace.

"Though 2019 may not see completion levels quite as high as 2018, more than 2.3 million square feet of industrial space will deliver in 2019 — well above the historical average of 1.5 million square feet," the report states. "Market rents will stay level as recently delivered inventory is absorbed over the year."

The Charleston region's population — more than 775,000 residents in 2018 — is growing at three times the U.S. average, and job growth appears to be keeping pace. The area had a net increase of 9,000 jobs in 2018 as unemployment fell to 3.7 percent.

The report notes that the Charleston area accounts for one out of every five new jobs in South Carolina over the past five years.

Strong growth is expected to extend into 2019.

"Jobs are expected to post healthy gains across all sectors," Thalheimer said. "The region is expected to have a net gain of new jobs of 1.8 percent in 2019."

New BMWs on tap

German automaker BMW is adding a pair of new vehicles to the production lineup at its Spartanburg County plant, the company's largest in the world.

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The X3-M and X4-M — high-performance variants of the sport-utility vehicles that share their monikers — bring the total number of cars produced at the sprawling campus to nine.

Both vehicles feature a newly developed twin-power turbo-charged engine with six cylinders underpinned with chassis technology designed for the high-power and traction-enhancing capabilities of an all-wheel-drive system, according to a news release.

Production of both vehicles is set to begin in April.

BMW's X models represented more than half of the automaker's sales in the U.S. last year, and the Upstate plant exports roughly 70 percent of the vehicles it makes to foreign countries through the Port of Charleston.

To date, BMW has invested nearly $10 billion in the plant, which has undergone five major expansions and now has a production capacity of up to 450,000 vehicles annually.

The longest drive

Pretty much anything would have been more exciting than watching the New England Patriots outlast the Los Angeles Rams in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history.

For more than 40,000 people, that included keeping their eyes glued to an online test drive of Volvo Cars' new S60 sedan, built at the automaker's $1.1 billion plant near Ridgeville.

That many people participated in a contest held on Super Bowl Sunday to see who could watch the test drive the longest via an online app without taking their eyes off the screen. The top three "drivers," who were not identified, will get the use of an S60 for two years.

The longest drive was 9 hours, 47 minutes and 42 seconds. Second place went to someone who watched for 7 hours, 46 minutes and 25 seconds while the third-place winner watched for 7 hours, 37 minutes and 51 seconds. 

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_

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