RIDGEVILLE — Retail giant Walmart broke ground Wednesday on an import distribution center off Interstate 26 that will transport goods shipped through the Port of Charleston to roughly 850 stores and Sam’s Club warehouses throughout South Carolina.
The $220 million investment at the Ridgeville Industrial Campus will create about 1,000 full-time jobs. Construction of the distribution center, announced in July, will take 14 months.
Greg Smith, Walmart’s executive vice president of supply chain, said the port’s “business mindset, efficient operations and shovel-ready site” at the commerce park were key factors in the retailer’s decision to locate here. He added the port’s “proven track record of handling high-demand supply chain needs for the automotive industry gives us full confidence in their ability to meet our retail distribution and e-commerce needs.”
The State Ports Authority is developing the commerce park on about 1,000 acres it purchased for $16.2 million in June 2018 from WestRock Co., the successor to MeadWestvaco Corp. following its merger with Rock-Tenn. Co. The SPA has agreed to sell 244 acres at the park to Walmart for $1 as an incentive to lure the retailer. The SPA also will use a $21.7 million federal grant to build a new road, widen an existing road and pay for other infrastructure serving the Walmart site.
Jim Newsome, the SPA’s president and CEO, called the groundbreaking the most significant day in the port’s history because Walmart is expected to boost cargo levels by about 70,000 cargo containers a year at a time when the authority is spending billions of dollars on a new terminal, equipment and other improvements.
“Without a significantly expanding cargo base, none of the significant infrastructure investments that we are making are possible,” Newsome said.
The distribution center also represents “significant change … in the retail supply chain,” Newsome said, with Walmart leading a trend in which goods are sold both online and in traditional stores.
“Walmart is the largest retailer in the world and the recognized leader in supply chain innovation and efficiency,” Newsome said. “They do things at significant scale and value speed, simplicity, performance and integrity. I have always felt that doing business with Walmart requires a significant cultural alignment.”
This will be Walmart’s seventh import distribution center and the retailer’s third-largest, trailing warehouse hubs in Texas and Illinois.
“Folks should understand that this is not a typical distribution facility,” said state Sen. Larry Grooms, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and the Legislature’s Port Oversight Commission.
“Walmart has only a few of these large hubs in the entire country, and when completed, this one will be among its largest,” said Grooms, a Charleston Republication. “These are quality jobs in a dynamic and important industry, jobs that improve employees’ quality of life, and in turn provide other Americans with everyday necessities — and during the pandemic we’ve all come to appreciate just how necessary these goods are.”
To offset wetlands disturbance at the distribution center site, the SPA has preserved a 325-acre parcel of land within the Timothy Creek and Four Holes Swamp Watershed, both of which have been identified as priority areas for conservation. The conservation project was done through a partnership between the SPA, the Lowcountry Land Trust and the Open Space Institute.
The groundbreaking was held at the SPA’s headquarters in Mount Pleasant instead of at the construction site to limit the number of people attending during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_