My colleague Brandon and I are spending a lot of time these days driving up and down the I-85 corridor between Atlanta and Charlotte. It’s become clear from our travels that Charlotte should really be looking over its shoulder at Greenville, S.C. and watching closely as this industrial market is burgeoning.
There’s been four million square feet of speculative industrial space coming out of the ground in the last three years. The whole market is 168 million square feet. Adding to the excitement is the area is wrapping up development of a new inland port, which means things unloaded from ships in Savannah can be immediately loaded onto a train and not have to go through customs until they arrive in Greenville, where the inland port can handle customs processing.
A large percent of the manufacturing and distribution deals that want to go to Greenville but end up elsewhere is because there traditionally has not been a lot of quality space available. Typically, it’s been a market of metal buildings and low ceilings, but that has changed. Now the area is building new space that is as large as is available in Charlotte. This is being fueled by the fact that European firms that are locating there (primarily because they are suppliers to BMW). These firms have a history of building high-quality industrial buildings and have always turned their noses up to the ones we build in America. Simply put: They build their own. They’ll look at brand new building and say it’s not as good as what I can do.
People in Charlotte should be aware that with Interstate 77 we are just as close to Charleston port as Greenville is. Except we have a deeper labor supply and a superior airport, professional sports teams, banking and everything else a major employer could want. We should be able to lure these same companies. But the headline is this is a warning to all Charlotteans: Greenville is on attack and we’re definitely in their sights.