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Savannah’s Industrial Market, Port Among Fastest Growing in Nation, Says Local Economic Development Head

The 14,000-TEU CMA CGM vessel named Theodore Roosevelt sails past Historic River Street en route to the Port of Savannah. (Photo courtesy of Georgia Ports Authority/Stephen Morton)

SAVANNAH, GA. — The Port of Savannah and the surrounding industrial market are both growing exponentially. That trend was reinforced with the $172 million investment announced last week by Plastic Express to build two new manufacturing facilities in nearby Pooler.

“They’re going to export plastic resins out of our port to the tune of 100,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) per year,” said Hugh “Trip” Tollison, president and CEO of Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA). “Plastic Express has instantaneously become one of the port’s largest customers.”

Tollison was one of the featured speakers at a luncheon hosted by SEDA on Wednesday, May 1 at 5Church restaurant in Midtown Atlanta’s Colony Square. The event brought together several of Savannah’s top businesses, including Savannah Bourbon, Visit Tybee Island, Georgia Grown, The Salt Table and Leopold’s Ice Cream, which is turning 100 years old this year.

Hugh “Trip” Tollison, president and CEO of Savannah Economic Development Authority

Tollison highlighted many economic drivers in the Savannah region, including aerospace giant Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. hiring its 12,000th employee; healthcare system St. Joseph’s/Candler opening a new hospital in Pooler last month; and the film industry that last year doubled its 2017 economic spend thanks to productions of films like the upcoming “Gemini Man” starring Will Smith.

The straw that stirs the drink for the market, though, is the Port of Savannah, which is responsible for 8 percent of Georgia’s GDP. In addition to being the fourth largest port in terms of TEUs in the United States, the Port of Savannah is also the fastest growing in the country and the third-fastest growing port in the world.

“We’re going to double the size of our port in eight years,” said Tollison. “It’s going to go from handling 4.2 million TEUs to 8.5 million TEUs.”

The port’s growth has pushed the surrounding industrial market to new heights. In 2004, Savannah’s industrial market housed approximately 14 million square feet of occupied industrial space. Today, it’s just under 65 million square feet, an approximately 400 percent increase in 15 years.

“We’re going to start construction on about 10 million square feet in the next 15 months,” said Tollison. “The industrial market has really exploded, and with that comes jobs and a tremendous amount of investment.”

Savannah’s industrial market is well-regarded as a distribution hub thanks to investments from companies like FedEx Ground, which opened a 160,000-square-foot packaging facility in Pooler in March.

With the port’s growth, the Plastic Express announcement, new Gulfstream suppliers that will be announcing facilities in the coming months and the new Savannah Manufacturing Center set to open later this year, Tollison is confident that Savannah will also become a manufacturing base in the immediate future.

— Staff Reports

Click here to learn more about the Savannah Economic Development Authority.

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