Boasting the fastest-growing U.S. containerport and a rapidly expanding critical mass of distribution facilities, Savannah is quickly attracting a bevy of beneficial cargo owners and logistics operators to the Peach State.
“We are capturing more discretionary cargo as shippers discover the benefits of landing goods closer to customers in the fast-growing Southeastern U.S.,” said Griff Lynch, midway through his second year as the Georgia Ports Authority’s executive director. “In turn, this has fueled an unprecedented construction boom in Savannah’s logistics industry.”
Having reached a pace of 4 million 20-foot-equivalent container units moving across docks at its Port of Savannah, which is welcoming megaships with capacities of as many as 14,000 TEUs, the GPA isn’t standing pat but rather is augmenting infrastructure at what already is the Western Hemisphere’s largest single container terminal.
The project to deepen Savannah Harbor to as many as 49 feet at low tide is moving toward completion and Savannah’s 1,200-acre Garden City Terminal is slated to get six more neo-Panamax gantries in 2020, to join four new such units to be in operation by mid-2018, to bring its total ship-to-shore crane contingent to 36. Other endeavors (see story on page 2) include a consolidated intermodal rail facility.
Meanwhile, in 2017, private investors added 3.6 million square feet of industrial space in the Savannah area. Another 4 million square feet are under construction, with the next year and a half expected to see an additional 10 million square feet of warehouse space in the Savannah market.
“Now is the time to jump into the Savannah market,” Lynch said. “We’ve had some major business announcements in the last few months, but there is still ample land available for development.”
According to industrial real estate firm Colliers International, there is enough space at existing industrial parks to add another 15 million square feet of industrial space within 15 miles of the Port of Savannah. Further opportunities exist in nearby Bryan, Effingham and Liberty counties and beyond.
GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood, noting that in last October alone the authority’s container trade grew by 32 percent, commented, “We’re experiencing phenomenal growth in port business. This signals the need for additional investment from both the public and private sectors.”
Allgood said that through it fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, the GPA will spend $125 million on new cranes, rail expansion and additional truck lanes at the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal. Meanwhile, the state of Georgia is investing $1 billion a year to create dedicated truck lanes, alleviate traffic and improve safety across the state.
Among the latest private-sector announcements are those of Canoga Park, California-based Noble House Home Furnishings LLC, which is building a 630,600-square-foot distribution facility to fulfill online orders for the eastern half of the nation, and Irvine, California-headquartered home accessories firm Best Choice Products, erecting a 344,700-square-foot hub.
Recently opened for business are distribution centers for furniture and décor seller Wayfair, with 846,000 square feet, and fashion and accessories dealer Tory Burch, with 753,000 square feet, both in Henry County, southeast of Atlanta. In the Savannah area, PortFresh has opened a 100,000-square-foot facility handling chilled cargo.
The latest announcement comes from United Kingdom-based Neal Brothers Export Packers, which has entered the Savannah logistics market with an opening play of 60,000 square feet and plans to grow its footprint to 200,000 square feet within a year and 500,000 square feet within five years.
Neal Brothers’ general manager, Darryl Griffin, said coming to Savannah has been a long-term goal for the firm, commenting, “The record-breaking year-over-year growth for the GPA team has not gone unnoticed in the logistics community. Neal Brothers recognized that success and feels that – given our 100-plus years of warehousing experience – we would be an asset to the GPA and Savannah community.
“Demand for services through the Port of Savannah has given us the ability to open one location with talk of a second site,” Griffin said, citing opportunities in supporting automotive, manufacturing and construction industries.
Major companies already entrenched with distribution hubs in the Savannah area include Walmart, Target, The Home Depot, IKEA, Heineken, Pier 1 Imports, Toys “R” Us, US Foods, Dollar Tree and Floor & Decor.