21 Apr 2016 Augusta Studied as Site for Georgia’s Next Inland Port
State and local officials are working with businesses to find a site to develop a facility around Augusta to transfer freight from trucks to trains, the head of the Georgia
Ports Authority said Wednesday.
Curtis Foltz told 1,700 trucking and shipping executives at the Georgia Logistics Summit that his agency had identified six regions as candidates for so-called inland ports. If no one else develops them, the ports authority will take the lead.
The authority has been involved in the development of two inland ports in recent years – in Cordele, which is already operating, and in Chatsworth, where
construction is just beginning.
Discussions are underway for two more facilities, he said. One would be in the Augusta area, where major shippers, a railroad and city officials are looking for a site and designs to minimize road congestion.
“Augusta’s one of the locations with specific requirements in working with the local community,” Foltz said. “We’re working with the local economic development community, and we’re really working with a couple of local customers in that area. … We’re involved with Augusta. We’ve made several visits to Augusta. We’re looking at sites.”
He offered no timeline for development.
“It’s a process. It takes a good bit of time,” he said.
Another site could be out of state.
“Cordele was much more successful than we thought. Cordele kind of woke up every county in Georgia now wanting one of these,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way.”
Locations are based on commercial demand for port shipping, rail service and economic development potential. Reducing truck traffic is the key consideration in each.
“As the supply chain jerks, you’ll see us reach out farther,” Foltz said. “To me, it makes this network of inland facilities more important. … We don’t see ourselves limited in building these in Georgia. We truly see it extending beyond Georgia if it makes sense for the port of Georgia.”
Jannine Miller, the director of the state’s Center of Innovation for Logistics, said that the demands of freight transport don’t follow state boundaries and that having inland ports beyond Georgia’s borders could tap additional shipping customers for the port.
“Inland ports can create that access into the Midwest, even more so with the Panama Canal expansion and the (Savannah River) deepening,” she said.
Each of the inland ports will be designed different from the others to reflect each local market and geography. The Augusta facility probably would be developed around one
or two anchor shipping customers.
Potential out-of-state sites are in east Tennessee and Alabama. The ports authority has been approached about developing a site in Florida, but Foltz said that might not have enough potential.
Going beyond the state line isn’t the goal, he said. “But all I tell people is we’re not limited by it.”
As a state authority rather than an agency of state government, the ports authority is essentially a business owned by the state. It can own property, charge for its services and operate anywhere, like any other business.
“Where we’re looking at sites along the borders of Georgia, if it makes sense to move it 30 miles, 50 miles and that happens to be across the border in another state but it’s going to positively attract economic development to the region, that’s what we do,” he said.
Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Walter C. Jones/Staff Writer