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Two Flights Bring Countless Opportunities to Upstate

September 9, 2016

The following opinion editorial by Upstate SC Alliance President & CEO John Lummus was published in the Sept. 5, 2016 edition of GSA Business Report:

The recent announcement that Senator International in November will launch roundtrip cargo flights twice a week between GSP and Munich, Germany, heralds more opportunities than we can count at first glance.

As with the Inland Port, a three-year-old logistical game-changer, BMW is Senator’s anchor client. That relationship opens the door for the international shipping and logistics company to provide services to anyone that could benefit from moving cargo to Germany, or use Munich as a gateway to Europe. At the same time, the Upstate becomes a direct link for Europe to other parts of the Southeast.

Economies soar with airports

We’ve seen that what’s good for our airports is often great for the economy. A 2006 study by the South Carolina Department of Commerce Division of Aeronautics found that commercial aviation generated $2.5 billion in economic output, just over $1 billion in earnings, and supported more than 40,000 jobs.

Look at SDF in Louisville, Ky., to see the major impact air cargo alone can have at a cargo-heavy airport in a peer metro. The Transportation Research Board found that the direct effect of about 2.3 million tons of cargo moving through SDF – mostly from UPS business – was nearly 21,000 jobs with a labor income of $1.6 billion, and over $4.5 billion in economic output in 2012. When ripple effects are considered, those numbers jump to 46,000 jobs, $2.6 billion in income, and $7.5 billion in output.

One company set that trajectory

Last year 29,454 tons of cargo moved through GSP International Airport, about average annual volume since the end of the recession. It’s far from millions, but SDF shows how, literally, the sky’s the limit. BMW already plans to consolidate most of its air freight delivery that had been going to “several airports on the east coast,” and GSP can expect to siphon more business away from busier, costlier hubs nearby. Additionally, quicker, cheaper cargo movement is an attractive selling point for foreign direct investment in the Upstate.

Many industries benefit

Speed is everything in today’s economy. A smaller airport like GSP is more agile, and Senator’s warehousing, trucking, and strong regulatory and customs relationships create faster customs push-through and lead times. Now, a Saturday afternoon flight can mean Monday morning delivery within 250 miles of the airport.

Senator has made it clear that it’s open for business to the full range of import/export opportunities among business of all sizes. Their successes mean more work for people beyond the airport, such as freight forwarders, customs brokers, and trucking companies.

With two new cargo flights, Greer becomes an even stronger multimodal node. We’ve already made our mark with the Inland Port, which awaits a $2.2 million expansion. Adding to that a schedule of flights that move products between Europe and the Southeast means additional companies can efficiently use the service line through their own freight-forwarding companies.

Access to air cargo helps improve the competitiveness of individual companies and even solo players. Sales, inventory management, production and customer support are all positively impacted, in addition to the obvious benefit of expanding the size of the market a company can serve.

Some of South Carolina’s most established and fastest-growing industries are the ones that will capitalize most on air cargo services. Companies that specialize in aerospace, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, chemistry, and heavy equipment often deal in the kind of large, hazardous or time-sensitive cargo that makes quick shipping critical to customer demands. High speed delivery is even becoming more important in financial and business services, according to the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group.

The future is air freight

The trends are clear nationally and globally: air cargo is only becoming more important. According to the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group, “no other means of transportation is better equipped to meet the economic realities of the new era where global sourcing and selling, and just-in-time logistics, require that producers receive and ship smaller quantities more frequently, quickly and reliably over long distances.” At GSP, these two regular flights will add to cargo charter flights, solidifying GSP’s role as an international airport.

Trends like “manufacturing creep” are already telling the story as manufacturing facilities move near or even directly onto airports. If we want to see rapid growth in the Upstate, then businesses at all levels need to take full advantage of the kind of supply chain opportunities international cargo flights bring – or position themselves to do so. 

TOPICS: News You Can Use, Upstate Thoughts