Port Expansion and Economic Opportunity
The City of North Charleston has a bright future. It has the potential of becoming one of the most successful economies in the State. The expansion of the Port of Charleston which will be relocating to the City of North Charleston at the Naval Base is the prime reason. The Port of Charleston is going to increase its current capacity at 50% by the time it is finally built out. The current capacity is not only an economic boon for the city but the state as well. Looking at the numbers the Port of Charleston facilitates 260,800 jobs across the state, and generates $45 Billion in economic activity each year. According to the Chamber of Commerce the $55 Million Dollar containment project currently underway alone will support 720 jobs and create a $78.4 million economic impact during the 15 months it will take to complete.
Want more? The Ports represent 10.9% of all jobs in South Carolina. It generates $11.8 Billion in labor income, which is 13.6% of states total income. It represents $1.5 Billion in state and local taxes, and finally it generates $18.5 Billion in value added impact represented 12.1% of total gross state product. Wow!!! Now the question becomes for the African- American community, and more specifically the communities surrounding the new home of the Port, how will these dollars benefit them? The first answer should be jobs. The second answer should be the development of businesses that can service the new Port at the Naval Base.
There are examples around the nation of community benefit agreements reached between cities, communities, and Port Authorities to insure that a percentage of the jobs generated go to local residents in communities surrounding the ports. The best example exists at the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach. When these Ports where being expanded they had to go through the same approval process that the Port of Charleston recently went through. A key part of this is working with the community on a “Community Benefit Agreement” or “Mitigation Agreement”. The agreement in California called for the Port to continually fund a job training and placement program for local community residents.
The community in North Charleston is represented by the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities (LAMC). This organization has been instrumental in the development of the Mitigation Plan. One the founding members, Michael Brown, also represents the communities surrounding the Naval Base as its City Council Member says “In the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) the neighboring community assessment did not create many opportunities for employment. The assessment stated that many of the employment opportunities would not be obtained from the neighboring communities. In the DEIS, eight jobs per year for five years to anyone graduating from a High School in North Charleston were offered. I need not say any more of that proposal. LAMC approach is to create an environment through education, housing, and other opportunities for community revitalization and economic development.”
The Final Environmental Impact Statement is now available and includes some an additional educational commitment. “The SCSPA has committed to the donation and sacrifice of use of a three acre site on the Naval Base to support Clemson University’s Restoration Institute campus. Clemson expects this undertaking to bring thousands of high paying jobs to the Charleston community and to have the potential of creating a unique incubator industry.”
The Clemson Institute primary goal will be to train people for jobs in the long term. Besides donating the land however the SCSPA has not made any commitment to fund training and job placement in the long term. Many of the commitments for jobs on involve the construction phase. LAMC, North Charleston City Government, and the SCSPA must enter into an agreement for long term funding for a job training and placement program that prepares local residents for the jobs after the New Port is establish. Most people are familiar with jobs at the port related to cargo handling, but there are thousands of other jobs associated with the port to include jobs in assembling materials that flow through the port, jobs at businesses that support shipping or goods movement, jobs related to cruise ship tourism, and jobs in retail sales of imported goods.
LAMC has done a phenomenal job in negotiating with the SCSPA, but their work is not over. In addition to realizing the community master plan being develop a strategy must be developed to insure local residents access the thousands of jobs that will be made available after the Port is built.
As mentioned earlier jobs are not the only economic opportunity to come about because of the port. New businesses that will service the Port is the other great opportunity residents can capitalize on. LAMC agrees. They insured that the SCSPA supports this by committing to contributing an estimated $1,000,000 towards entrepreneurial training and opportunities, and assisting qualified vendors in securing new business, such as bid package assistance programs, funds for contractor and subcontractor bonding, vendor assistance, insurance and workmen’s compensation assistance, loan servicing fees assistance, and a revolving loan fund.
The job now is to follow up and follow through. The LAMC organization is the primary organization to insure these commitments are kept, but it will take residents, churches, local entrepreneurs, and city officials to make sure that the plans made are realized. Control your destiny. It is in your hands.