Savannah Model Illustrates Southeast’s Distribution Potential

A generation ago, there was only the dream of transforming the quiet coastal lands around Savannah, Georgia, in to a Mecca for retail distribution. Today, anchored by names like IKEA, Best Buy and Pier One, the region is home to more than 15 million square feet of quality distribution center space – and counting.

A sizable portion of Southeastern North Carolina has the same potential, economic development leaders say, and they are learning everything they can from Savannah’s experience. In December, a 13-person delegation led by North Carolina’s Southeast traveled to Savannah and toured its distribution facilities. Those who attended included representatives from the N.C. Department of Commerce, the N.C. State Ports Authority, Progress Energy, Wilmington Industrial Development and several counties. “We received an overview from officials of the Georgia Ports Authority and toured several distribution parks there,” explains Steve Yost, marketing manager at North Carolina’s Southeast. “It was very powerful.”

In recent years, the Port of Savannah has emerged as America’s fastest growing seaport, with a growth rate nearly double that of the national average. Much of its success rests on sound strategic planning and partnerships between port officials, state and regional economic development agencies, and private real estate investors. Mr. Yost and others believe that with the development of the North Carolina International Terminal near Southport, much of the Southeastern North Carolina has comparable appeal for retail distribution operations seeking a convenient mid-Atlantic location.