S.C. sets another record for exports in 2014

BMWs assembled in Greer helped South Carolina become the nation’s top exporter of automobiles. Most of Upstate-made vehicles are shipped through the Port of Charleston’s Columbus Street Terminal (above).

Automobiles, airplanes, tires and turbine engines helped South Carolina record another record year for exports in 2014, with $29.7 billion in goods shipped to foreign countries by Boeing Co. and the State Ports Authority, says the U.S. Commerce Department.

That is a 13.1 percent increase over 2013 totals and is the fifth consecutive year that exports have set a record in South Carolina, mirroring record-setting increases nationally that topped $2.35 trillion in 2014.

BMW vehicles made at the German manufacturer’s plant in Greer helped the state become the nation’s top exporter of automobiles. With a 21 percent increase over 2013, BMWs accounted for $9.2 billion of the state’s export sales. More than 260,000 vehicles were exported from BMW’s Greer plant, totaling more than 70 percent of the plant’s total volume.

South Carolina also led the nation in the export of tires, with nearly 30 percent of the nation’s tire export market passing through the Port of Charleston. Gas turbine engines accounted for $1.7 billion in export sales.

“Much of the exporting success that South Carolina is experiencing can be attributed to the state’s thriving manufacturing industry,” Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt said in a statement. “As a world leader in the production of tires, cars, and wide-body commercial aircraft, it’s clear that we’re gaining a global reputation for the quality of goods that we produce.”

Boeing, which makes the wide-body 787 series of commercial planes at its North Charleston campus, delivered 32 of its Dreamliners to foreign customers in 2014. The company does not disclose deals it makes with individual airlines, but the deliveries had a combined list price of nearly $7 billion. Those planes went to countries from Canada to Qatar.

With more than $4.2 billion in export sales, China remained S.C.’s top export partner in 2014, followed by Germany, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

Jim Newsome, the SPA’s president and CEO, said he expects improved export numbers in coming years once Charleston Harbor is deepened to 52 feet from its current 45 feet. The $509 million initiative is expected to take an important step toward reality when the Army Corps of Engineers issues its “chief’s report” in late summer. The agency will use that report to show Congress that the project is worthy of federal funding. If authorized, the harbor deepening could be finished by the end of the decade.

Newsome said the project “will facilitate an even greater share of global trade in the years to come as ships become larger and manufacturing grows more robustly within the Southeast region.”

South Carolina Electric & Gas is ahead of schedule in removing coal ash from its lagoons near the Catawba-Wateree River near Columbia, an environmental group reports.

The cleanup efforts are the result of a 2012 settlement between the Cayce-based utility and the Southern Environmental Law Center. The center had sued SCE&G on behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation to force removal of the coal ash under state and federal pollution laws.

SCE&G removed 600,000 tons of coal ash during 2014, more than twice the amount called for in the agreement. The utility now has removed about a fourth of the amount of coal ash in the unlined lagoons. The coal ash is being moved to a lined storage facility in preparation for recycling.

All the coal ash is scheduled to be removed by 2020, according to the agreement.

“SCE&G’s progress shows that utilities can clean up their unlined, leaking, dangerous riverside coal ash lagoons,” Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the law center, said. “The Catawba-Wateree River and the people who depend upon it are safer today because of the removal of this ash.”

Prior to the cleanup, SCE&G stored about 2.4 million tons of coal ash on the banks of the Catawba-Wateree, three miles upstream from Congaree National Park.

Santee Cooper also has agreements with the law center to clean up coal ash at its coal-fired plants in Moncks Corner, Conway, and near Georgetown.

Boeing has invested $100,000 in the development and delivery of a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educational partnership with an Orangeburg school district, the S.C. Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics said.

The partnership will allow the district to offer hands-on summer camps in computer science and engineering for rising 7th-9th-graders. It also includes tech-focused teacher training for all middle school math and science teachers and an Algebra II honors course for students.

“STEM education is a high priority for the Boeing Co.,” Beverly Wyse, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina, said. “By investing in partnerships such as this one ... we’re helping to prepare students in Orangeburg and throughout South Carolina for future success in an intensely competitive global business environment.”