S.C. exports set record Led by vehicles, sales totaled $25.3 billion in 2012, up 2%

South Carolina saw record exports last year, with much of the overseas-bound goods moving through the Port of Charleston.

South Carolina sold more goods to overseas buyers than ever last year, a trend led by luxury BMWs, car tires and other products.

Exports from the Palmetto State rose more than 2 percent over 2011, hitting a record value of $25.3 billion, according to U.S. Department of Commerce figures released Friday.

The mish-mash of merchandise made its way to 197 countries, according to a statement from Gov. Nikki Haley, the S.C. Department of Commerce and the State Ports Authority.

The governor and representatives from the two agencies were in Greer on Friday to mark the start of an Upstate transportation hub designed to improve the flow of exports, as well as imports.

At the SPA’s “inland port,” shipping containers full of goods will be transferred between trucks and Norfolk Southern rail cars rumbling to and from Charleston. It will link the local waterfront with port users along the bustling U.S. Interstate 85 business corridor, such as the BMW car manufacturing plant.

“The two engines of the South Carolina economy are now connected. That’s going to pay great dividends for this state,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said at Friday’s groundbreaking event.

Germany’s BMW, which imports and exports through Charleston, is expected to move 20,000 to 25,000 containers of parts a year through the Spartanburg County site. Officials hope the inland port will lure more manufacturers and distribution businesses to the state.

“If you are into the export business, come to South Carolina and locate around one of these centers of operation. We will get your product to any place in the world at low cost with a smile on our face,” Graham said.

The state’s top 10 export industries last year were vehicles, machinery, rubber products, electrical machinery, plastics, optical and medical equipment, paper and paperboard, organic chemicals, wood pulp and cotton yarn and fabric.

Also, South Carolina ranked first among U.S. states in tire exports, holding nearly 30 percent of the share of U.S.-made exports for the second consecutive year.

Canada overtook Germany for the top spot as South Carolina’s top export market in 2012, purchasing nearly $4 billion in goods. Germany was second, with more than $3.7 billion in purchases, and China was third, at $3.2 billion.