DILLON, SC (WMBF) - A milestone in the Pee Dee was celebrated, as leaders from across the state joined the South Carolina Ports Authority for a groundbreaking ceremony for the Dillon port expansion.
The ceremony took place on the 15- acre industrial park on Fairfield Road, where the new inland port will be.
"We will be the only state in the country that's got two fine inland ports on a deepwater harbor," said Gov. Henry McMaster.
McMaster, who served on the S.C. Ports Authority board, said he is committed to the port.
"It will allow those post-Panama boats, the largest in the world, to come into our harbor," he said. "There is no way to overstate, No. 1, how unique that is but, No. 2, how important that is. The southeast region is where the growth is. That's where it's all coming to. Most people think you spell port, P-O-R-T, but actually you spell it M-O-N-E-Y, and it's on the way here."
According to McMaster, there is no federal assistance to help pay for the $40 million project. The S.C. Ports Authority applied for a fast-lane infrastructure grant and Dillon qualifies under the rural aspect of the grant.
Dillon County bought the 150 acres of land for $2.4 million and handed it over to the ports for this project.
Without the commitment from Harbor Freight tools, which is the cargo base and anchor of the inland port, the CEO and president of the state ports authority said this project would not have come together.
"The railroad has been very cooperative too, but most importantly, the county, the town and Marlboro Electric, and just the excitement you see here today with the number of people attending is evidence, I think, that it's a good proposition," said SCPA president Jim Newsome.
Dillon County Administrator Rodney Berry, who also was at the ceremony, called the announcement one of the Pee Dee's most historic.
"This is where industry will locate because of the cut in transportation costs and retail always follows industry, and we always focus on industry," Berry said.
The inland port has been one year in the making and is comparable to the one that opened in Greer four years ago. According to Newsome, Dillon will see an increase in distribution centers and new industry that will come to support it.
"We're on the I-95 corridor, and that makes it significant," Newsome said. "It's just well located. You can't build an inland port just anywhere, and you need flat land."
Newsome told the crowd an inland port needs overnight train service for containers, a cargo base and a community willing to support development in order to succeed.
The CSX rail line, which runs from New York to Florida and moves containers through Charleston, will also use the upcoming Dillon inland port, helping to grow that footprint, according to Newsome. The first-year goal is a minimum of 45,000 containers.
"It took a lot of work to get us here and it's going to take more work to get us where we need to go, but we are on our way," McMaster said.
Dillon's inland port is on track to open in the beginning of 2018.