Headed for an inland port?

The idea of an inland port in Western North Carolina has recently navigated a few curves in the N.C. General Assembly. Moving on three tracks, the proposal is to locate such a port within the 23-county area of the N.C. Regional Economic Development Commission known as AdvantageWest. The port would serve as a hub for container-shipping distribution in the region, most likely incorporating rail as well as interstate access.

Under House Bill 2256, a report on the feasibility of the inland port would be completed by the Institute for the Economy and the Future of Western Carolina University by December. This bill has now passed second and third readings in the House and moved to the Senate. House Bill 2257 has been amended to allow the House Select Committee on a Comprehensive Rail Service Plan for North Carolina to take over the job of scrutinizing the feasibility of port, instead of creating a new joint committee for that purpose. And HB 2258, which would originally have established an Inland Port Interstate Compact between North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia to coordinate inland port efforts, has been replaced by a substitute that would create a new Inland Port Interstate Compact Study Committee of 16 legislators. All three bills were sponsored by Rep. Mitch Gillespie of McDowell County.

North Carolina has two existing inland ports, created in the 1980s in Charlotte and Greensboro in response to growth in container shipping. The state’s first deep-water ports in Wilmington and Morehead City were created as a result of legislative action in the 1940s, in order to promote the development of industry in the state. All four existing ports are overseen by the N.C. Ports Authority.

Nelda Holder, associate editor

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5 thoughts on “Headed for an inland port?

  1. travelah

    North Carolina would be better served by holding off on this endeavor. We are ready to undergo a significant and strategic shift in business logistics that has not yet begun to be explored. Over the last twenty years, manufacturing in this country saw a shift away from distance rail and warehousing to various kanban, JIT and pull systems that greatly increased the truck traffic on our highways. Given a major shift and one deemed permanent by the Big Three, we should expect fuel costs to remain high. This is already turning the heavy duty pickup truck and SUV markets to dinosaurs. Businesses will have to measure the cost of capital tied up in warehouse inventory vs. significantly increased freight costs of receiving materials and shipping products. What the politicians are seeing today might very well not exist in five years or perhaps even in two.
    I think it is far more prudent to hold off on pursuing regional logistic hubs and instead proceed with an eye toward how this strategic shift in fuel and delivery will impact the region. Truck traffic on I-40 might very well shift to I-95 and I-85 depending on how businesses react to high freight costs and the availability of rail. That would potentially make putting a hub in western NC less advantageous than in the Piedmont.

  2. I’m in favor of it. My company recently used Charlotte as an inland port to receive a large shipment from China. Asheville would be even better!

    Remember, Asheville the commercial hub of Western North Carolina and I see this as a logical extension of its responsibilities to our region. Also, ports work in both directions, so it would make exports easier also.

  3. Craig Hargett

    An inland port does not make sense for a sustainable vision of our region. I would much rather see local industry take over than continuing to rely on high cost modes of transportation. The cost is not just $ either, it’s our ability to have future generations live on this planet.

  4. Craig … sustainability is an entirely separate issue …

    getting raw materials for manufacturers or importing finished products to sell is simple commerce and anything that lowers transportation costs and raises profits benefits us all.

  5. travelah

    Craig, certainly you are not trying to connect an inland port with global sustainability for mankind?

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