The Post and Courier, of Charleston, S.C., is The South’s Oldest Daily Newspaper – Founded 1803.
In Commentary, state Rep. Jim Merrill, former House majority leader, representing House District 99 in Berkeley and Charleston counties, on March 28, 2009, wrote:
For the State Ports Authority, the last 10 years have been a litany of missteps. Daniels Island, Jasper County, expansion plans, charging rent to Dept. of Transportation during construction of the Ravenel Bridge, the ongoing saga of the Navy base access road, handing out unwarranted bonuses, potentially losing Maersk, being unable to accommodate BMW, discouraging public/private partnerships, and planning major terminals without railroad access, are examples of its general lack of direction and a shocking inability to analyze existing realities.
These missteps occurred under the current board system — and I believe that system must be changed if we are going to achieve the sense of purpose and level of accountability that today’s global market demands. …
Rather than support a Senate bill that is a clarion call for the status quo, I introduced legislation to eliminate the SPA Board and place its Executive Director in the Governor’s [Sanford] Cabinet.
After years of observing and working on port and state economic issues, it has become painfully clear that our single greatest problem is a result of compartmentalization and an insulated board that does not talk to its business partners or other state agencies.
To read the rest of Merrill’s commentary is equally as painful. Unfortunately for the Lowcountry, it gets worse:
In a featured Letters to the Editor, entitled Amtrak station needs replacing (photo credit: Tyrone Power/staff) Bruce D. Mullen, Bainbridge Drive, Charleston,
also on March 28, 2009, wrote:
Well, here we are amid the hoopla over Gov. Mark Sanford rejecting money he wants to use to pay down debts, and our CARTA [Charleston Area Transportation Authority] officials decide to use federal stimulus money to buy new buses that have to be built in another state, thus creating zero jobs in the Charleston area. Where is the logic in that situation?
The perfect answer was to build the intermodal facility that would have replaced the rundown Amtrak station in North Charleston and would have brought all forms of transportation into this location, all the while creating hundreds of local jobs.
Has anyone been to the Amtrak station lately? In my entire life of living in Charleston, I can’t believe this is what we want people who come to our area to see. How do we let this facility exist? The station is totally embarrassing.
Replacing buses is an ongoing issue that will repeat itself over and over. That is something that should be funded with local dollars that are generated through revenues from CARTA, not federal stimulus money. We are just using the stimulus money to do whatever politicians decide to do with it.
Conversely, in the State of Florida, and without a single mention of the Florida Times-Union’s Ron Littlepage, jacksonville.bizjournals.com on March 31, 2009, published:
Insiders discuss Jacksonville’s trade future
[A discussion on] the challenges facing the growth of trade in Jacksonville Tuesday morning. The participants were Jerry Mallot, executive director of Cornerstone; Dennis Kelly, TraPac Inc. regional vice president; and Peter Anderson, Pattillo Construction Co. vice president. The panel was moderated by Lad Daniels, First Coast Manufacturers Association executive director.
Do we have the workers here to meet the port and related industry’s need?
Mallot: I think today we are more ready to go because we have a down economy. We did a survey that we have 40,000 people who are capable of working at the port or within the supply chain. As the market grows, I think we will need to build on that capacity.
Kelly: The established trade has been vessels needing a 2 or 3-gang operation. Of course, we have six cranes that we want to fully utilize one day. We work with the International Longshoreman’s Association.
All those guys are going through a learning process because we have a new unique, fully automated terminal The main skills we need are crane operators and tractor drivers.
Anderson: With a 9 percent unemployment rate, we have labor. We need to continue to attract companies that will employ the labor. We need to help educate our workforce.
What are we doing to address the infrastructure concerns regarding the shortage in funding?
Mallot: We are all looking at third-party relationships to build infrastructure. We don’t have the funding to fund outer beltway so we are going to have to enter into a public-private partnership. The port will have to do the same. That obviously has to have some return on investment. I am going to hope a turnaround of the economy in next few years will help get our state in a more stable position.
THE FUNNIEST PART OF THIS DISCUSSION?
Mallot: We have to expect some levels of opposition. Traditionally in our area people understand that we do economic development responsibly. Preliminary studies show that this is a reasonable and effective way to go about the process. THE WILD CARD IS HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE TO FIGHT THROUGH OBJECTIONS AND PROTESTS.
— k. a. gardner