The Heartland Port Authority Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to apply for a grant with the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
At its second meeting since its formation in September, the port authority voted to move forward with a grant it hopes will help it determine who could use a Missouri River port and how ports run. Efforts to transfer land from the state of Missouri to the port authority near a preferred port site are also under way.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture's Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority provides up to $200,000 in grants to projects that aid rural communities. Grants can cover expenses relating to feasibility studies, marketing studies, marketing plans, business plans and prospects for development, according to Agriculture Department guidelines for the grants. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and disbursed in January and July of each year.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Rick Mihalevich said the port authority could use money from a MASBDA grant to visit other ports and learn ways successful ports operate. A grant could also pay for studies of the traits that make those ports successful, Mihalevich said.
"Some of us are at the ground level and really don't know what happens at a port," he told the nine-member board. "We're trying to ensure that if there is any further public investment that it is for economic development that yields something."
Last February, Atlanta Consultancy firm Cambridge Systematics released a feasibility study commissioned by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce that showed 115,200 tons of goods could flow through the Missouri River port by its 25th year in operation. In July, Cambridge released a report that showed the economic impact of a Missouri River port on Cole, Callaway, Osage and Boone counties.
Site visits and studies conducted by the board of commissioners could further help the port authority determine who will use the river port, Mihalevich said.
"It would reinforce the feasibility study that there are people that would use it, given that we had it," he said.
At its last meeting, the board of commissioners agreed to spend $25,000 on a professional services contract with the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce. The board of commissioners hopes Missouri Department of Transportation grants the board expects to receive July 1 will pay for the contract.
Commissioners also agreed to create a bank account for the port authority, even though they said, for now, the port authority has no money to put in the account. Randy Allen, Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce CEO, said the chamber will cover the $300 cost of applying for the MASBDA grant.
Kris Scheperle, Cole County Western District commissioner and board of commissioners secretary, said he supports applying for the MASBDA grant.
"I do think it's a good way to spend a little money just to see a strong interest and see who the players will be that would use the port," Scheperle said. "I think it's a good investment before we move forward and start spending some big dollars."
Heartland Port officials are considering two sites for the port: One is in southern Jefferson City near the Missouri National Guard Ike Skelton Training Facility, and the other would split the port between the southern site and a second port in Callaway County in northern Jefferson City near OCCI, Inc.
State Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, and State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, plan to introduce legislation during the session that beings today to transfer 116 acres of state-owned land just east of the Ike Skelton Training Facility to the port authority, Allen said.
"It's a pretty simple process," Allen said. "We're asking the state to transfer it without any money."