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Chamber outlines next steps in building port

Chamber outlines next steps in building port

November 8th, 2018 by Philip Joens in Local News

Sal Litrico, CEO of Miami shipping company American Patriot Holdings, talks to interested parties Wednesday as the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce hosted an informational luncheon at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel to celebrate the creation of the Heartland Port Authority. Several speakers representing the shipping industry talked about the potential opportunity having a port holds.

Photo by Julie Smith /Fulton Sun.

With the Heartland Port Authority Board of Commissioners formed, the project's leaders said they want to build a port that can adapt to rapid changes in the shipping industry.

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Members of the new port authority's board of commissioners attended a luncheon Wednesday afternoon held by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce. At the luncheon, the chamber laid out the next steps toward making the port a reality.

In September, the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission approved the Heartland Port Authority's application to create a port authority. On Monday night, the Jefferson City Council appointed the last three members to the port authority's board of commissioners, which will govern the port.

Missy Bonnot, Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce director of economic development, told a crowd of at least 60 people at the meeting the chamber hopes to receive a $750,000 federal BUILD grant in December. If approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Cole County; Callaway County and Jefferson City would match the grant with a combined $187,500 from the three entities. Money from the grants and governments would fund preliminary engineering studies, Bonnot said.

"Hopefully next month we'll hear something very positive about that," Bonnot said.

Heartland Port officials identified two sites for the port. One option would build a port in southern Jefferson City adjacent to the Missouri National Guard Ike Skelton Training Facility near the chamber's existing industrial park. A second option would build a port near OCCI Inc. in northern Jefferson City in Callaway County in addition to the southern Jefferson City port.

Under the two-site plan, dry bulk commodities would be handled at the south site using conveyor systems. Commodities moved by crane, such as those in shipping containers, would be handled at the northern site.

Building only the south site would cost at least $54.77 million, according to a February feasibility study conducted by Atlanta Consultancy firm Cambridge Systematics. The two-site plan would cost $59.5 million.

An additional $10 million would be needed for roadway improvements. Engineering and planning services would cost $1 million more.

The port authority would like to build the port on 125 acres of land owned by the State of Missouri just east of the Ike Skelton Training Facility, Bonnot said. Randy Allen, Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce president, said the chamber wants to work with the Missouri General Assembly to secure the land during the upcoming legislative session.

"I'm pretty confident that we can get it through this year," Allen said after the meeting.

Under both plans, construction of the south site is expected to take about two years. In the dual-site plan, operations at the northern site could begin about a year after construction starts. Bonnot said the port authority could build part of the two-site port on 23 acres of land owned by OCCI.

This site would also allow the port authority to build space for storage and future development, Bonnot said. Building an operational port could take five years, Allen said.

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Over that time, the shipping industry will likely change as ships get bigger and ports need more space to process goods, shipping industry officials at the meeting said.

Sal Litrico, CEO of Miami shipping company American Patriot Holdings, told the crowd about a fleet of inland waterways vessels the company wants to build to ferry goods up and down the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. At 100 feet wide and 595 feet long, APH ships designed for the Mississippi's tributaries could ferry goods from Jefferson City to ports in Kansas City and Louisiana.

Litrico and others from the shipping industry cautioned rapid changes to the shipping industry are forcing ports on the Gulf Coast, East Coast and West Coast to make multi-billion dollar upgrades to their ports to handle newer and bigger ships than ever before.

New ports must be made to adapt to new technology and to handle new ships, Litrico said. Ports should be built with future technologies in mind, Litrico said.

"Don't think small, think big," Litrico said. "You need to have that footprint in mind.

You've got to build phase one, but be prepared for phase 3, and don't limit yourself to that."

Allen said the Heartland Port will be designed to adapt to future uses.

"You can't built what you project for 30 years," Allen said. "We're going to build it so we can make upgrades."