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Grapevine: Virginia port wins big-ship bragging rights over Charleston, Savannah

April 3, 2017 GMT

Va. beats out Charleston for big-ship milestone

The question over which port will be the first to host a biggest megaship to ever call on the East Coast has been settled. The Port of Charleston will be the third stop.

The Port of Virginia announced last week that the COSCO Development — which can haul the equivalent of 13,092 20-foot-long cargo boxes — is scheduled to drop anchor May 8 at Virginia International Gateway in Portsmouth, Va. At 1,200 feet long, it will be the largest container ship to visit a port along the East Coast.

The vessel will sail from Hong Kong and through the Panama Canal on its way to the Old Dominion. It will then make a stop in Savannah before heading back north to Charleston for a visit May 14.

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COSCO is part of the Ocean Alliance, which includes CMA-CGM, Evergreen Line and Orient Overseas. The Ocean Alliance plans to start a weekly service this spring to Charleston using one of its “post-Panamax” ships, according to Jim Newsome, CEO of the State Ports Authority. The term refers to vessels that were too large to traverse the Panama Canal before it was expanded in 2016.

Once a project to raise the Bayonne Bridge in New Jersey is completed later this year, Newsome said he expects the 2M Alliance, a consortium of Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping, will add a second weekly service to Charleston using a similar-size vessel.

The arrival of big ships comes as the SPA is moving forward with a plan to dredge Charleston Harbor to 52 feet, giving it the deepest shipping channel on the East Coast and allowing bigger vessels to visit at any time, regardless of tides. The project is scheduled for completion in 2019.

Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen spoke at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition conference Tuesday. File/AP

Fed shout-out

South Carolina’s fast-growing apprenticeship initiative won praise last week from one of America’s top economic officials.

Janet Yellen, the chair of the Federal Reserve board, gave a shout-out to Apprenticeship Carolina in a speech she gave Tuesday on workforce development.

Yellen said that American workers could benefit from more on-the-job training, especially “low- and moderate-income individuals” receiving technical education.

South Carolina’s initiative has seen explosive growth since its inception a decade ago, making apprenticeships - long associated with unions - more commonplace in a state that had relatively few. About 850 employers now offer programs through the state, and nearly 18,000 people have gone through them.

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Yellen emphasized several aspects of successful programs that she says can help lift workers. She said they should reach people when they’re young, emphasize technical education, connect with employers and promote entrepreneurship.

Apprenticeship Carolina, which is tied to the state’s technical college system, hits some a few of those criteria. It mixes on-the-job training from employers with community college classes, and officials are increasingly pushing apprenticeships designed for high-school students.

Spokeswoman Kelly Steinhilper says the state now boasts 136 youth apprenticeships, up from just a handful five years ago.

The programs got an early boost in South Carolina from the state’s heavy concentration of foreign investment in manufacturing, since apprenticeships are more commonplace among European employers. The growth was also fueled by an annual $1,000-per-apprentice tax credit for employers.

“The program has led to sizable job gains at a modest cost to the state,” Yellen said, according to a transcript of her speech posted by the Fed.

Yellen was speaking to a conference of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, an economic development group that targets underserved communities.

Sale synopsis

The Carmike James Island 8, formerly called James Island Cinemas, closed less than two weeks ago. File/Warren L. Wise/Staff

The buyer of the Carmike James Island 8 says the sale of the property did not bring the curtain down on the recently shuttered first-run movie theater.

Ryan Hanks, a founding partner in the real estate development White Point Partners, said last week that the cinema closed “on its own accord due to financial issues as they were not making any money.”

“We did not close it or require them to close it. We actually asked them to stay through the year if they wanted to, but they declined as it was not financially feasible to stay open,” Hanks said.

The theater at Central Park and Folly roads closed March 23, when it sold for $3.9 million to an affiliate of Charlotte-based White Point. Apartments are planned for the nearly 6-acre site, though many James Islanders aren’t happy about it.

Award for rewards

Charleston once again sits atop a list of destinations.

This time, financial technology company SmartAsset dubbed the Holy City the No. 1 place in South Carolina to travel using airline miles or travel rewards points.

The firm looked at three factors. The airline mile value index analyzed where a traveler gets the best value by using miles or points to book a flight versus paying cash and accounted for two-thirds of the score. The remainder came from the percentage of employment in the leisure and hospitality industry and recreational centers per 1,000 residents.

Final score for Charleston: 41.81. Myrtle Beach came in second at 29.95. Greenville-Spartanburg scored 28.41, and Columbia trailed at 20.89.

Portland, Ore., came in No. 1 in the nation with a score of 100.

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