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GSP breaks ground to expand cargo business

Transportation
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Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport on Sept. 10 took the next step in accommodating more cargo traffic — and more manufacturers — by ceremoniously breaking the red clay soil already being cleared and flattened by heavy machinery for a $30 million warehouse and expanded apron.

Dave Edwards, president and CEO of GSP, told attendees that the expansion says a lot about the health of the airport and the Upstate in general. 

The need for more cargo capacity means manufacturing plants are humming along, and cargo traffic at the Greer airport has been on the rise, he recently told GSA Business Report.

In the fiscal year that ended in June, Cerulean Aviation supported more than 1,200 cargo flights. GSP’s cargo activity increased 39% from 2016 to 2017 and the airport moved from No. 84 to 72 on the Federal Aviation Administration’s list ranking airport cargo data. Edwards said the work being undertaken now could move GSP up another 10 spots on the list. 

Senator International, a Germany-based freight, shipping and logistics service, started operating at GSP in November 2016, flying first between Greer and Germany. The company recently added service to Mexico. Ralf Schneider, Senator’s COO, joked Monday that he was eager to end to ceremony so that construction can move along swiftly.

“When we came here with the first flight, of course there were doubts,” he said. “It’s a very challenging business having a plane up in the air. … It takes some guts to do this.”

However, he added, GSP has worked out well enough that Senator is looking at adding a third destination next year.

Presently, GSP can accommodate only one 747-800 at a time on its cargo apron. The project underway now will enable the airport to accommodate three, Edwards said.

The 110,000-square-foot warehouse and 13-acre cargo ramp and apron are scheduled to open in the spring of 2019, according to a news release from GSP. Senator will have 53 employees on site.

“The new facility is going to be more than a significant accomplishment for Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport,” Edwards said in the news release. “It’s going to provide much-needed support for major manufacturers and have a direct economic impact on the Upstate.”

Cargo equipment passing through GSP includes automobiles, automobile parts, health care equipment and pharmaceuticals, according to various officials who spoke at the ceremony. The airport was also the entry point for more than 550 horses earlier this month, arriving to compete in the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C.

Minor Shaw, who chairs the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport Commission, said the commission is dedicated to supporting GSP’s growing cargo enterprise because it’s good for the airport and the community it serves.

“We want to make sure that we do everything to create the best opportunities for the airport to make it the best that it can be,” she said. “Supporting air cargo operations has been an important responsibility of the Greenville-Spartanburg airport since we opened in 1962. We’re committed to supporting the needs of our major manufacturers and always have been. They support our economy and quality of life.”

In 2017, the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport District took on its fixed-base operator services by launching Cerulean Aviation, the news release said. Cerulean not only supports general aviation aircraft and fueling, but it also serves as an air cargo service provider for GSP. Cerulean’s cargo and aircraft services include on-airport cargo facilities, build-up and break-down of cargo, BUP transfer, bulk and containerized aircraft loading and unloading, on-call charter cargo handling, customs documentation processing and aircraft refueling, the news release said. 

GSP’s new cargo apron is being funded partially by $11 million from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program, according to the news release. The cargo apron is expected to cost $17 million and the warehouse will cost $13 million. 

WK Dickson, based in Charlotte, N.C., is the engineer for the cargo ramp. McCarthy Improvements Inc., based in Davenport, Iowa, is the contractor for the cargo ramp. Haskell, based in Jacksonville, Fla., is the designer and builder for the cargo building.

Reach Ross Norton at 864-720-1222.

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