Looking like little more than a giant plastic foam cooler, a new penguin exhibit required a true feat of logistics to land in its new home at the South Carolina Aquarium.

The 8,000-pound structure arrived by tractor-trailer from North Carolina at the State Ports Authority's Union Pier Terminal. From there, it was transported on a barge over to the aquarium, where a crane lifted it onto the terrace.

If all goes as hoped, the three-day effort will pay off. The flightless birds could give a needed boost to the attraction's slumping numbers — attendance dropped 8 percent between 2007 and 2008.

The Magellanic penguins on loan from a SeaWorld are set to arrive at their new home in late February. The exhibit's Penguin Planet opens March 21 and closes in March 2010.

Call it a year

December brought to a close a tumultuous year for the local real estate industry, ending with the largest monthly home price drop in recent memory for the Charleston area.

The median sale price for the final month of 2008 was $191,600, a 9 percent decrease from the same period in 2007, the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors said. The total number of homes sold, which is typically smaller in December because of the holidays, fell 33 percent compared to December 2007 to 478.

For all of last year, home sales skidded by 24 percent compared with 2007, and the median sales price dropped roughly 3 percent to $203,270.

Making cuts

More local manufacturers announced cutbacks in response to the anemic global economic climate.

Hill-Rom Holdings Inc., a maker of hospital beds and other medical equipment, said it plans to shift some of its manufacturing from North Charleston to Indiana. The 90 jobs that are affected make up about 25 percent of the company's local staff of 350.

Also, a severe drop in demand for cement triggered 45 layoffs at Giant Cement Co.'s Harleyville plant, also a 25 percent cut. At the same time, KapStone Paper and Packaging Corp., which bought MeadWestvaco Corp.'s local paper mill last year, said it would shut down one of three linerboard-making machines for a total of two weeks. The roughly 100 employees who work on the idled line will have to take unpaid time off or use vacation days.

Time out

Facing a 15 percent decline in revenue from memberships, the region's largest business-advocacy group is tightening its belt by reducing employees' hours and pay.

About 30 workers at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce will start four-day workweeks beginning Jan 20. The reduction in hours and compensation will last through the chamber's fiscal year, which ends June 30.