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Georgia Ports highlights site selection opportunities

Posted on March 6, 2024

For automakers and their suppliers, other manufacturers and logistics operations, Georgia’s ports are a key factor in the decision to bring jobs to the Peach State.

“We’re not talking about only Savannah or Atlanta,” said Georgia Ports Authority President and CEO Griff Lynch. “It’s our mission to drive the success of the entire state. A whole series of recent announcements prove that our efforts are paying off in greater economic opportunity for Georgians in large and small communities.”

With GPA and the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) working in partnership, the state announced 350 projects from potential port users in Fiscal Year 2023. The announcements will bring more than 33,000 manufacturing and logistics jobs and $21 billion in investment to 96 counties across the state.

“GPA, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Georgia Department of Transportation are working to foster responsible growth that delivers good jobs for our neighbors while preserving quality of life,” Lynch said. “For example, Georgia Ports is investing $29 million in an overpass that will route trucks leaving our Ocean Terminal in Savannah directly onto U.S. 17, avoiding community streets.”

According to the Global Commerce division of GDEcD, Georgia’s growing electric vehicle ecosystem has touched every corner of the state. That growth is led by announcements associated with the Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America, which have located in more than 10 counties across the state.

“Companies, especially in e-mobility, are prioritizing speed-to-market solutions,” said Commissioner Pat Wilson at the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “Investing in site development and ‘Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development’ certification are ways communities can prepare for new opportunities.”

Also notable is Anovion Technologies, a synthetic graphite manufacturer creating 400 jobs for Southwest Georgia, in Decatur County. Speaking at the time of the groundbreaking, Anovion Executive Chairman Chip Dunn described the state’s recruitment effort that swayed the company’s decision to locate in rural Georgia – including meetings with Gov. Brian Kemp and other factors, such as GPA’s inland port system, and access to waterway and land transport.

The inland port system includes the Appalachian Regional Port in Crandall, Ga., and the Blue Ridge Connector rail yard now under construction near Gainesville, Ga., and supports the movement of large, heavy product from centrally located communities to the state’s deepwater ports.
In the Savannah area alone, the inventory of industrial property now totals more than 124 million square feet, with more than 14 million square feet under construction at the close of Calendar Year 2023.
In a fourth-quarter report, Stephen Ezelle, a broker for industrial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield stated the Savannah regional economy continues to experience expansion and strong absorption in the industrial sector despite a slowing economy across most U.S. markets.

“The outlook for Savannah’s industrial market is still favorable thanks to the continued growth at the Georgia Ports with conservative projections to eclipse 8 million TEUs of throughput by 2030,” Ezelle stated. “The operational efficiency offered by the GPA and shift in import cargo from the West Coast and NY/NJ are the key drivers in the growth of Savannah’s industrial market.”

The report indicates that, despite the moderation of container trade nationally, Savannah is expected to continue a balanced expansion thanks to the Hyundai announcement and GPA’s growing national market share. Ezelle predicts the continued absorption of well-located light industrial warehouse space. He reported Savannah’s industrial sector ended 2023 with an overall vacancy rate of 7 percent.

“Being within 30 miles is great, but you don’t have to be in order to be competitive in drayage, lease rates and overall cost of doing business,” said Stacy Watson, director of economic and industrial development at GPA. “Forty or 50 miles away from Savannah is an easy drive. That can be attributed to the port’s location upriver of the Savannah population center, and to the Georgia Department of Transportation’s efforts here, making the truck routes to the port less congested and easily accessible.”

Direct truck routes from the Port of Savannah to Interstates 95 and 16, as well as on-terminal service from two Class I railroads expedite cargo moving to and from the marine terminal.

Watson said while there are still many locations within even 10 miles of the Port of Savannah, available properties in Bryan, Liberty and McIntosh counties – as well as points west – offer interstate and rail links to the port and to thriving inland markets.

“Augusta is another example,” Watson said. “Only a short drive from Savannah, a majority of the manufacturers in Augusta are port users.”

Cal Wray, president of the Development Authority of Augusta, Ga., said that the region is ripe for growth.

“Augusta-Richmond County provides an ideal location for port users due to its available, affordable industrial land, key base for manufacturers with over 350 manufacturers already calling Augusta home, and the easy rail and highway connection to the port,” Wray said.

He said Augusta has a large industrial base, with recent announcements including:
• Aurubis Richmond, a metal smelting operation, bringing 250 jobs and $600 million in investment.
• Denkai America, a copper film producer providing 250 jobs and $440 million in investment.
• Purecycle Technologies, recycling plastic into like-new pellets for reuse, with 100 jobs, $400 million in investment.
One stand-out industry ecosystem in Augusta is electric vehicle manufacturing, with EZGo Textron and Club Car and their related suppliers in Richmond and Columbia counties. Metals and chemical manufacturing are two other important industries in Augusta.

Wray said the Georgia Ports Authority supports the efficient operation of existing industries, as well as local economic development efforts. “GPA is one of our key partners in the ongoing recruitment of new industry,” Wray said. “But more importantly, they are a great resource to our existing manufacturers who have invested billions in the region already and many of which have announced significant further investments in the last five years.”


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