JASPER COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) – A Lowcountry project that’s been promised for decades may now be one step closer to reality.
The South Carolina Ports Authority has signed a deal to transfer 50% ownership of the Jasper Ocean Terminal to Jasper County. The other 50% is owned by the Georgia Ports Authority.
The county and the S.C. Ports Authority signed off on the plan Tuesday.
“I think now it is up to us to go to Georgia and sit down and all the powers that be sit down and develop a comprehensive timeline as well as an organization that will help move this along,” said South Carolina Sen. Margie Bright-Matthews (D-Walterboro).
“The studies, the engineering reports we have gathered over the past decade, those are going to be big assets in expediting this process. We have a plan as well as design,” said Jasper County Councilman Martin Sauls.
The $5 billion project was first mentioned in 2005 and has been talked about in the legislature and by the Ports Authority since 2010. The entire project has been stalled for years as the Ports Authority dealt with the Port of Charleston’s potential issues with the project.
“The South Carolina Port Authority has continually pushed back that timeline now to 2038, 2040,” said Jasper County Councilman Martin Sauls IV. “They never intended to make the Jasper Ocean Terminal a viable project. We are going to keep the Army Corps of Engineers permit going, we are going to work with GPA and hopefully private sector and make this dream a reality.”
The Jasper Ocean Terminal would connect the Georgia and South Carolina shipping industry, and according to experts, could mean billions more in jobs and economic boost to the county and the entire Coastal Empire and Lowcountry.
“You can come right over the river, 10 minutes from the port, and we’ve got land,” said Sauls. “We are building warehouses that are 330,000, 600,000 square foot warehouses that are being built at-need, and you are right by the interstate system.”
Now that they have control, Jasper County officials say they want to move forward quickly. That could include giving private companies a stake.
The 50/50 partnership between Jasper County and the Georgia Ports Authority allows the Hostess City port to keep expanding while creating a new public/private company “corridor of opportunity.”
“This would be a regional explosion of jobs, explosion of business because you would have satellite businesses that would supply to the port and more importantly, the income level because these are not $15 an hour jobs,” said Bright-Matthews. “It means a collaboration between Georgia and South Carolina that will affect us not only for jobs but socially and economically and educationally it will affect us for generations to come.”
The legislature still has to approve the deal, which they are expected to do. But their decision has no bearing on Jasper County taking ownership of the Ocean Terminal site and all its interests.
Councilman Sauls wouldn’t say what companies are interested – but believes once the plans get in motion, groundbreaking could happen within the next 3 to 5 years.
“It’s going to be hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Sauls. “You are going to see this economic impact far beyond the Lowcountry – you are talking about one of the most highly technologically advanced ports, possibly one of the largest ports in the world.”