Skip to main content

Greenville Business Magazine

Exporting Resources Available to S.C. Firms

May 01, 2017 09:11PM ● By Makayla Gay

By Karen E. Thuermer

Specialized Content Sponsored by South Carolina Ports, Upstate SC Alliance and K&L Gates

  Several resources are available to help South Carolina companies expand their business base to include exporting. Canada and Mexico remain the top countries to which S.C. companies export. However, other locales – depending on products and services being offered – provide opportunities. Just remember, 95 percent of the world’s customers are outside of the United States. Here are some organizations that can help.

International Strategy and Trade Division (IST)

Created in December 2015 by S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt as a division within the South Carolina Department of Commerce, IST works to develop a more coordinated and strategic plan across South Carolina’s international company recruitment and export efforts, with oversight of the state’s four international offices in addition to new and growing markets. With this added focus, South Carolina and its existing companies strengthen relationships overseas, expand global connectivity and create new trade opportunities for the state’s existing and prospective businesses.

“The creation of IST has already helped to increase South Carolina’s international trade activity and is actively helping individual companies in South Carolina export their goods and services,” says Adrienne Fairwell, S.C. Department of Commerce spokeswoman.

IST has made it possible for the state to secure additional resources for South Carolina businesses, such as export assistance grants like the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grant, which is awarded to states through application by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

See or call (803) 737-0400; (800) 868-7232.

State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP)

STEP is a three-year pilot trade and export initiative that provides matching-fund grants to assist “eligible small business concerns” enter and succeed in the international marketplace. The Federal Award amount for South Carolina is $333,364; the State Match, $111,121 for a total $444,485.

See or call (803) 737-0400;      

(800) 868-7232.

S.C. Department of Commerce Programs

The S.C. Department of Commerce provides guidance on potential markets for products and services, export training programs such as those offered this year: “Export to Our Neighbors: Mexico and Canada” (held in Greenville in April); “Harmonized System (HS) and Schedule B Classification (scheduled for Columbia in June); and “Exporting for Technology Companies” (scheduled in Charleston in September).

The division has a staff of four and utilizes two interns. It is looking for South Carolina companies to take part in two international trade missions planned for Canada and Mexico. Several South Carolina companies are already scheduled to participate in a trade mission to China and Korea, as well as the Paris Air Show.

See or call (803) 737-0400; (800) 868-7232.

Upstate SC Alliance

Upstate SC Alliance does not provide export assistance to businesses, but unifies public and private resources to ultimately raise awareness for the value of exporting and connect businesses with the resources to increase exporting activities.

“Within the Upstate SC Alliance, each community’s economic developer is responsible for maintaining direct relationships with their industries to understand the challenges, opportunities and needs of each company,” says John Lummus, president & CEO.

Strategies within the organization’s Upstate Regional Export Plan include offering export support training to both those existing industry liaisons and directly to the companies so that everyone can participate in a more informed conversation about an otherwise intimidating topic.

“Our toolkit involves connecting businesses to resources such as the South Carolina District Export Council, The U.S. Commercial Service, the South Carolina Department of Commerce’s International Strategy & Trade support team, and to private sector legal, transportation, and accounting service providers who can each help businesses navigate the process and minimize risks,” says Lummus. “It’s a multifaceted and collaborative process – but the important element is having many voices sing in resounding chorus about the world of opportunity that new markets present.”

See or call (864) 283-2300.

South Carolina District Export Council (SCDEC)

SCDEC, an organization of leaders from the local business community whose knowledge of international business provides a source of professional advice for local firms, works closely with the Columbia, Greenville and Charleston U.S. Export Assistance Center of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service to help South Carolina businesses succeed in exporting by providing counseling and mentoring, educational seminars, awareness of export opportunities, and information on key issues affecting U.S. and South Carolina industry competitiveness in the global marketplace.

See or call (803) 737-0400;(800) 868-7232.

South Carolina Small Business

Development Centers (S.C. SBDC)

The S.C. SBDC operates as the gateway and proven provider of small business assistance driving entrepreneurial growth and success. SC SBDC business consultants assist with all the planning and details necessary to make exporting a reality and a big part of a company’s growth. S.C. SBDC business consultants are specially trained to assist small business owners in the transition into international market. S.C. SBDC export specialists can help by providing financial analysis such as costing, pricing, budgeting and forecasting; identifying appropriate financing options and preparation of loan applications; creating a marketing plan that examines target market potential, competition, distribution channels, licenses, insurance, taxes, government contracting opportunities, political climate and business friendliness of countries; setting standards for global business management; and providing networking opportunities and help entrepreneurs connect with the people and resources that will promote success.

See or call (803) 777-4907

South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA)

South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) promotes, develops and facilitates waterborne commerce to meet the current and future needs of its customers, and for the economic benefit of the citizens and businesses of South Carolina.

“The rising production of export goods in South Carolina is a key driver of South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) growth,” says SCPA president and CEO Jim Newsome.

South Carolina’s manufacturing sector is a significant business segment for SCPA’s Port of Charleston. Imports comprise materials and components; exports, finished products. “Charleston offers strong connectivity to international markets, with 25 weekly container services to and from 82 foreign ports,” Newsome says.

For exporters, whose cargo typically requires deep water to accommodate vessels loaded heavy with cargo, Charleston offers the deepest harbor in the Southeast, with 45 feet of depth at mean low water. The harbor is being deepened to 52 feet, which will make Charleston the deepest port on the East Coast.

“Construction on harbor deepening is expected to begin this fall, and will enable Charleston to be the last East Coast port of call – a major benefit to exporters,” Newsome reveals.

SCPA particularly helps South Carolinian exporters by offering highly productive, reliable operations that set the standard for turning ships and trucks at a reasonably low cost. Its Inland Port Greer improves the efficiency of international container movements between the Port of Charleston and Upstate exporters.

“In partnership with Norfolk Southern, the project utilizes an overnight train service to handle double-stack container trains to and from the Port of Charleston’s productive seaport operations,” says Newsome.

SCPA also has begun construction on a second inland facility in Dillon via an existing CSX mainline. It has a projected early 2018 opening and will offer overnight access to Charleston. Other improvements include the Leatherman Terminal at the former Navy Base in North Charleston and new super-post Panamax cranes and upgrades to the structural support and fendering system at Charleston’s Wando Welch Terminal. All totaled, SCPA and the state will spend $2 billion by 2020 in port and port-related infrastructure to meet the needs of the modern shipping industry.

“SCPA is committed to providing modern, capable facilities for its exporters by supporting the development of infrastructure that enables freight to flow easily to and from Charleston,” Newsome emphasizes.

See or contact (843) 723-8657.

K&L Gates

In December 2011, K&L Gates became, and still remains, the only global law firm in the state. With over 30 lawyers residing in South Carolina, and over 2,000 lawyers worldwide, K&L Gates is uniquely poised to assist South Carolina-based businesses that operate globally and foreign businesses that operate – or hope to operate – in the state. The firm can handle virtually any legal need these businesses have or could have, and its governmental and business contacts throughout the world make K&L Gates an ideal economic partner. K&L Gates operates at the critical crossroads of the 21st century, providing experienced legal counsel at the intersection of globalization, regulation and innovation.

Some of the areas in which the Charleston office focuses are international trade, customs,  economic development, corporate, energy, environmental, labor & employment, immigration, real estate, transportation, insurance coverage, and maritime law.

K&L Gates represents growth and middle-market companies, leading global corporations, capital markets participants and entrepreneurs in every major industry group as well as public sector entities, educational institutions, philanthropic organizations and individuals. The firm practices law on an integrated basis and indeed has the largest integrated network of offices of any global law firm. With a global reach spanning across 46 offices on five continents, K&L Gates practice is a robust full market practice — cutting edge, complex and dynamic, at once regional, national and international in scope.

See or contact (843) 579-5600.