Dubai’s Jafza International is to build a $600m logistics park in South Carolina which will serve as a major manufacturing and distribution hub into North America.

Despite being one of the US’s poorest regions, it is believed the Orangeburg County site was chosen for its strategic position in relation to Panama Canal shipping routes.

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The $5.25bn widening of the Panama Canal, which started in October last year, will double existing shipping capacity by opening up a strategic transport route to larger container vessels bringing goods from China – the world’s fastest developing manufacturing centre.

The new shipping route from Asia for large merchant ships will dock at ports such as Charleston in South Carolina and Savannah in Georgia, and is widely recognised as a future primary gateway to the US.

Last year, protests against Dubai Ports World’s management of six US ports through its acquisition of P&O led the firm to sell off its US interest even though it had the full backing of the US administration.

But there has been no significant local opposition to the Jafza project, as it is believed the business park may attract hundreds of companies which could use the hub to repackage imported goods or add content to imported components for re-export.

Jafza International claims the logistics park, the firm’s first in the US, will create up to 10,000 jobs and attract private investment of about $1.2bn.

The project will create opportunities for new jobs not just in the logistics and manufacturing sectors but also in engineering and operational support businesses, according to Jafza International managing director Chuck Heath.

“Jafza’s entry into the US is a unique opportunity that benefits not only Orangeburg County, South Carolina, but the south-eastern US as a whole,” he says.

The 1300 acre site, bought in October last year, straddles the

US’s main Atlantic coast highway from Maine to Florida, where it crosses another main south-east highway, giving the location

good road access to the whole of North America.

The new logistics park will include baseball fields, public parks and nature trails with a campus feel and a local focus according to Jafza International.

Work on the site is expected to begin in 12 to 18 months, and preliminary evaluations by traffic and environmental consultants have already taken place.