GSP: A vital asset for business

By: By John Lummus - Contributing Columnist

Movement of goods is critical to the economic health and vitality of any area, especially for one as internationally connected as South Carolina. While roads, rail and ports often dominate the discussion of our state’s infrastructure, there’s another key player vital to the Upstate’s ability to move goods and people: Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport.

In the last year, GSP has seen record passenger volumes, welcomed scheduled international cargo flights to Munich, invested $125 million in facility improvements, and announced more nonstop service options.

It’s been a busy time, to say the least. These accomplishments are attributed to the work of the six-member Commission, which sets policy for the Airport District that is carried out by its President & CEO David Edwards.

What’s more — and rare for community airports — the Airport District receives no local tax funding and is fully self-sustaining.

American Airlines’ addition of new non-stop service to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago means that our region’s residents have non-stop service to 14 destinations through five air carriers, with continuing service to a wide array of destinations.

Meeting the needs of Upstate travelers is important to the community, but the airport also enhances our lives in a less visible way by playing a vital role in the business health and growth potential for Upstate companies.

As a result, Upstate leaders are consistently exploring ways to expand air service options, whether through new destinations or new carriers. With these factors in mind, the Upstate SC Alliance has formed an Air Service Task Force in partnership with GSP to unite local business and government leaders in formulating strategies to bring new services, whether for consumers or freight movement, to the area.

Every dollar that GSP brings in generates another $3.05, equaling another $170.9 million in the community, according to a presentation given to the Greenville Chamber of Commerce in January 2017. And these impacts are felt by both large and small businesses.

GSP provides a key gateway to the Upstate for leisure travelers who’ve been won over by the Upstate’s many travel accolades, which bring customers to our favorite hotels, museums, restaurants and boutiques and add $195.9 million each year to the local economy.

For industries and business service providers, GSP’s proximity to the Inland Port and ability to handle cargo freight is another critical asset.

In November 2016, German freight forwarder Senator International launched twice-weekly cargo service between GSP and Munich with a Boeing 747-400 line-haul, all-cargo service.

Although the cargo flight’s primary customer is BMW, which remained the largest U.S. automotive exporter in 2016, with 287,700 vehicles exported in 2016, additional capacity on the flights has been made available to other businesses with a need to get their goods quickly and safely across the Atlantic.

“Products like this, which allow the overall supply chain process to run smoothly, are the keys to success for our customers. We are looking forward to many customers benefitting from this special new product, which will also service any air cargo to and from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland,” said Tim Kirschbaum, CEO for Senator International, when the service was announced.

Through mid-March, 38 flights carried goods between the regions, and the Upstate exported nearly 2.85 million pounds of product using the cargo flights.

Whether a business is established and growing in the Upstate or is considering opening an operation here, air service is a vital need to ensure the ability to quickly move people and products to customers throughout the globe.

Each of these elements of airport growth enhance the Upstate’s business competitiveness and its appeal as a great place to live — and the WINGSPAN Terminal Improvement project is like icing on the cake.

The project is a major undertaking that includes concourse modifications and cosmetic improvements, addition of restaurants and shops within the terminal, local art installations, a community conference center, a business center for working travelers, and more.

Each of these developments works together to strengthen the Upstate — from enhancing the experience of existing air passengers to providing new flight options to building a warm and welcoming environment for visitors to equipping businesses with expedited international cargo movement — to continue its growth and success in the future, and we all have the opportunity to support this initiative.

Consumer demand and usage numbers are key in the business decisions made by air carriers when they consider new routes, so please keep this in mind for both your business and leisure travel: “If you want a great airport, use your airport.”

John Lummus is the President & CEO of the Upstate SC Alliance.

Founded in 2000, the Upstate SC Alliance is a 10-county economic development organization funded by public and private partners. Its mission is to firmly establish Upstate South Carolina as a unified and innovative economic region and position it to excel in the global economy through strategic marketing, collaboration, and thought leadership.

By John Lummus

Contributing Columnist