Walmart picks site near Port of Charleston for distribution center

Walmart (NYSE: WMT) announced plans Monday to build a $220 million, 3 million-square-foot distribution center in Dorchester County, South Carolina, that is expected to increase volumes at the Port of Charleston by about 5%. 

“Walmart is the recognized leader in supply chain innovation and performance. Having this world-class company choose our market for their distribution center is the ultimate vote of confidence,” said South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) President and CEO Jim Newsome.

“Walmart’s investment will create jobs for South Carolinians and boost cargo volumes at the Port of Charleston,” Newsome said. “We are experts at moving goods just in time for global companies. We are thrilled to partner with Walmart to further their growth and impact for years to come.”

Once completed, the storage and cross-dock facility near Ridgeville, South Carolina, will span nearly 3 million square feet, reportedly making it the third largest in the United States. The direct import distribution center, which will take about 14 months to build, will supply several regional distribution centers, supporting approximately 850 Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs across South Carolina and beyond. 

The Walmart distribution center is projected to create more than 1,000 local full-time jobs.

“At a time when job creation is so vital and, more than ever, our customers are relying on Walmart for the essentials they need during this unprecedented time, we are excited about the impact this new facility will have on the regional economy and how it will help us better serve customers across the Southeast,” said Greg Smith, executive vice president of supply chain for Walmart. 

George Bailey, chairman of the Dorchester County Council, said a project of this magnitude would not have been possible without the county’s “long-term commitment to infrastructure improvements and our strong relationship” with the SCPA. 

While reporting fiscal-year results last week, Newsome said that amid great economic challenges, the SCPA remains focused on growing cargo volumes and bringing new infrastructure online. He noted that First Solar is building its East Coast distribution hub in Greenville, South Carolina, and moving cargo through Inland Port Greer and the Port of Charleston. Frontier Logistics and A&R Logistics are building resin export facilities that are expected to open this year.

The SCPA handled 2.32 million twenty-foot equivalent units in the 2020 fiscal year, which ended June 30.

“We have positioned ourselves well for future growth as we prepare to open our state-of-the-art container terminal, the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal, this fiscal year,” Newsome said. 

He said in June that retail distribution is the name of the game now.

“A port is dependent upon land to do big-scale retail distribution. We didn’t have a lot of that. So in 2018 we bought 1,000 acres in Ridgeville as sort of our starting point to really develop a retail distribution strategy,” Newsome said. 

“What people don’t realize is one of the biggest challenges for retail distribution is not getting the containers to an import distribution center, it’s actually getting the cargo out of the container and into a domestic 53-foot trailer to where it’s finally needed. That’s where Greer really stands out in terms of being between Atlanta and Charlotte on a very busy highway system,” he said.

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