Southern Roots

Southern Roots

They are both good ol’ boys from the Southeast who returned to native ground after years afield to take on new jobs a little more than a year ago running the two biggest ports in the South Atlantic. That makes them direct rivals, competing for calls by ocean carriers that carry cargo to and from these key Southeast gateways.

Jim Newsome took over responsibility for the Port of Charleston in September 2009 as president and CEO of the South Carolina State Ports Authority. And at the beginning of 2010, Curtis Foltz became executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, which operates the Port of Savannah.

But it’s Newsome, oddly enough, who has the deeper roots in Savannah.

Newsome is a native of the port city; his father Jimmy was director of operations at the GPA for nearly 25 years. Newsome got his first exposure to the maritime sector as a boy accompanying his dad to the waterfront.

“I’m very proud of being a Savannah native,” he said. “I spent a lot of great years on the port there, and I was a customer of theirs in my Hapag-Lloyd time, so I have a lot of respect for them.”

He studied transportation and logistics at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville while working summers for Strachan Shipping in Savannah, which he joined full-time after graduation and where he became president of its Hoegh Lines Agencies subsidiary in Jersey City, N.J. He held other positions with Strachan in Houston, Texas and New York.

Newsome later held senior positions at Nedlloyd Lines, becoming the first non-Dutch member of the executive committee at the carrier. During 11 years at Hapag-Lloyd Americas, he became the first non-German to run the carrier’s American division, moving to that position in 2009.

That turned out to be a short-term job, however, because the SCSPA was looking for a chief executive to replace Bernard Groseclose, who left the port after Charleston lost calls by Maersk Line, its biggest customer. Newsome joined the authority in September 2009 and soon regained Maersk as a customer.

Foltz, a native of Charlotte, N.C., is a GPA insider. He was the GPA’s chief operating officer from 2004 to 2009, and on Jan. 1, 2010, he succeeded Doug Marchand, who had built Savannah’s volumes by attracting retail distribution centers around the port.

Foltz earlier was vice president of operations for CSX World Terminals in Charlotte, N.C. Previously, he held various positions all over the U.S. with Sea-Land Service, and with Overnite Transportation and McLean Trucking.

Contact Peter T. Leach at pleach@joc.com.