LAURINBURG — The chairman of the North Carolina State Ports Authority presented an overview of the state’s role in exchanging goods internationally at Tuesday’s meeting of the Laurinburg Rotary Club.
The ports authority promotes, markets, and sells services offered at the state’s two coastal ports in Wilmington and Morehead City and at inland terminals in Charlotte and Greensboro. In the process, it accounts for $707 million in annual state tax revenue and $14 billion of economic impact, according to ports authority Chairman Tom Adams.
The 2015 fiscal year, Adams said, marked a record in the number of containers handled by the Wilmington port, increasing 18 to a total of 300,000 and resulting in the most profitable year in the port authority’s history.
Generating $40 million in revenue annually, the port authority is self-sufficient.
“The ports in North Carolina are not state funded,” said Adams. “We generate our own operating revenue and do not rely on any taxpayer dollars.”
The Wilmington port primarily handles containers while bulk and breakbulk products — including rubber products and phosphates — pass through Morehead City. The ports handle imports from Singapore, China, Japan, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and the Middle East. Exports include wood pellets in demand for European generators and the sweet potatoes, pork, turkey, and poultry of which North Carolina is a leading producer nationally.
“Sanderson Farms of course is building a new facility close by here, and we knew they would be using a port for their product, actually exporting,” said Adams. “We believe that the cold storage facility and warehouse will be online by the end of April, so that will be an increase in business for us there.”
Wilmington’s activity, as one of the fastest-growing export ports in the United States, is 52 percent exports and 48 percent imports, compared to an average 41 pe4rcent export ratio among ports nationwide
Adams pointed out that the per-container cost to transport from Wilmington to Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem is less than from ports in Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, and Norfolk, Virginia.
The North Carolina ports’ proximity — within 1,000 miles — to 170 million consumers, 65 of the nation’s top 100 metropolitan areas, and 60 percent of U.S. retail sales, promises to positively affect the rest of the state.
“That’s all business that can come through North Carolina,” said Adams. “As that begins to happen, you’ll see that $14 billion economic impact begin to increase, which would be great for the state. Our mission is to create jobs, and that’s what we have set out to do.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.