New distribution hubs coming to Savannah as part of ports boom


Georgia’s ports enjoyed a record breaking year for cargo in the past fiscal year, and that growth is a driver for private investment expected to bring hundreds of new logistics jobs to the Savannah region.

Furniture retailer Noble House and home accessories seller Best Choice each plan large new East Coast distribution hubs near the Savannah port, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch will announce Thursday, part of a wave of new warehouse development there and more broadly across the state since the opening of the expanded Panama Canal.

Lynch and state dignitaries, including Gov. Nathan Deal, are expected to outline the two new warehouse projects, and plans for expansion at the Savannah and Brunswick ports during the State of the Ports annual meeting later today in Savannah.

“As our state’s gateways to global commerce, the Ports of Georgia are part of the crown jewels of our state,” Deal is expected to say, according to prepared remarks provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They are a major component to our ongoing reputation as the No. 1 state in which to do business – a distinction that we have secured for four years in a row now and aim to keep. Indeed, the ports are the powerful economic engines that keep our state economy running so well.”

The state’s ports moved 3.85 million twenty-foot equivalent (TEU) container units in the 12 months ended in June, up 6.7 percent from the prior year. Total tonnage grew by 8.3 percent. The Brunswick facility, meanwhile, moved 607,000 auto and machinery units.

“We’ve not only had a record year this past year but we anticipate that we will have similar growth or greater this year,” ports authority Chairman Jimmy Allgood said in an interview Wednesday.

In the same interview, Lynch attributed much of that growth to the expanded Panama Canal. The Savannah port saw its first 13,000-TEU ship in May and since that time the port is now seeing ships up to 14,000-TEUs about every week.

“We are the largest trading partner on the East Coast with the canal,” Lynch said.

The distribution center business around Atlanta also is growing, Lynch said, citing Williams Sonoma and other retailers like Tory Burch that have opened or announced new distribution hubs in the Atlanta area.

As a result, The GPA is considering buying land in northeast Georgia for another inland port to serve the growing 15-county area surrounded by Gainesville.

Lynch said if the authority moves forward, a land sale could happen by the end of the year.

“We don’t have a done deal but we feel very good about this,” he said. “This is a part of the state that is exploding in growth, both with people and cargo.”

To keep up with demand, the state and the ports authority has a number of other expansion projects underway or on the drawing board.

Among these are the dredging of the Savannah River channel to accommodate larger vessels. The cost of the project has climbed to nearly $1 billion.

State officials were dismayed in May when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency tasked with overseeing the project to deepen Savannah’s harbor, put less overall money into the deepening project than they’d hoped.

Still, other projects also will be key to success for the ports. These projects include:

  • A $128 million rail expansion on the Savannah port campus that will help the authority handle trains nearly 2 miles in length and position the Savannah port to be able to increase its service to markets west to Memphis and St. Louis and north to Chicago and the Ohio Valley. Construction is slated to start early next year and finish by the end of 2020.
  • Acquiring new Super Post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes. Ten are on order which would boost the fleet to 36 by 2020 at the Garden City Terminal.
  • The opening of the Appalachian Regional Port in Chatsworth, an inland port expected to enter service next year.
  • New truck entry lanes at the Savannah port.
  • The state’s planned network of road improvements, including overhauls to the I-16/I-95 interchange, and highway links to better connect the port to the state’s interstate system.

Related coverage

Anthem tech hub to anchor new Midtown Atlanta tower near Georgia Tech

Savannah’s port helping drive Atlanta’s industrial sector

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

AJC Business reporter J. Scott Trubey keeps you updated on the latest news about economic development and commercial real estate in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in local business news. Subscribe to myAJC.com.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Delta pushes for anonymity in second airport opposition
Delta pushes for anonymity in second airport opposition

In the protracted fight over creating metro Atlanta’s second commercial airport in Paulding County, supporters of the idea have long alleged that Delta Air Lines is funding lawsuits filed by residents challenging that effort. Delta says it’s no secret that it opposes the commercialization of the Paulding airport, 38 miles northwest...
Atlanta-based SunTrust says data on 1.5 million customers tapped
Atlanta-based SunTrust says data on 1.5 million customers tapped

Atlanta-based SunTrust on Friday said it feared that a now-former employee had wrongly accessed basic information about 1.5 million customers. The company became aware in late February that the person – an employee at the time – had access to confidential information including names, addresses, phone numbers and some account balances. However...
Delta adding more inspections of its Boeing 737 engines
Delta adding more inspections of its Boeing 737 engines

In the wake of the Southwest Airlines engine failure that left one woman dead, Delta Air Lines said it is adding more inspections of those engines in its fleet. Atlanta-based Delta’s entire Boeing 737 fleet has the same type of engines that were in the Southwest plane that blew an engine Tuesday. The CFM56-7B engine that blew on the Southwest...
Former FAA administrator joins Delta board of directors
Former FAA administrator joins Delta board of directors

Michael Huerta, the former administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration is joining Delta Air Lines’ board of directors.  Huerta served a five-year term as FAA administrator after being nominated to the position by President Barack Obama and sworn into office in January 2013. He stepped down at the completion of his term...
Georgia loses jobs in March, but unemployment rate steady
Georgia loses jobs in March, but unemployment rate steady

After two strong months, Georgia’s economy lost jobs in March. The number of jobs dropped by 7,400 during the month after adding 9,200 in January and 18,300 in February. The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a different, less extensive survey, held steady at 4.4 percent, according to a report issued Thursday by the Georgia Department...
More Stories