41NBC Special Report: Georgia’s Port – The Game Changer

SAVANNAH, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – As construction crews work to begin the dredging process on the Savannah harbor’s expansion project, Middle Georgia is preparing on what economic leaders think will be a game changer for business in the region.

In the early morning hours at the Port of Savannah, hundreds of port personnel have already worked around the clock.

Crane operators, truck drivers, and everything in between cover the acres available for the thousands of containers the port sees each week.

Griff Lynch, the chief operating officer of the Georgia’s Port Authority, anticipates even more traffic coming to the state’s shores.

“There’s no port growing faster than the Georgia Ports Authority today,” Lynch said.
He says he’s ready.

“Savannah has been the only port to really absorb that increase in volume without melting down and having negative impact on our customers and we take great pride in that,” Lynch said.

After a multi-million dollar investment from both the state and federal government, the port widening project is beginning to take shape.

The effects are being felt all across middle Georgia, as companies are strategically placing themselves along interstates to have better access to the port.

“This is going to have a tremendous impact on this region,” Pat Topping with Macon’s Economic Development Commission said.

Topping says he’s meeting with multinational business leaders on where and when they’d like to put warehouses and distribution centers throughout the area.

“That would give us a great opportunity to pull these containers that are coming out of Savannah off of 16 into some as we call it, a multimodal logistics hub,” Topping said.

Multimodal — a word meaning the region would turn into a vessel for all transportation — land, and, and sea.

“Middle Georgia has always been a great export location: forest products, kaolin, and clay. Now what we’ve seen over the last few years is the import side develop,” Lynch said.

Leaders, including state Representative James Beverly (D-143), say a prepared middle Georgia is necessary to keep up with the estimated 10,000 truck lifts, or loading and unloading, the port sees daily.

“I think we have to start re-imagining ourselves as a regional player. You have the wishbone right here with 16/75,” Beverly said. “We have to stop wishing that something would happen and start developing it so that we become the backbone of middle Georgia and regional transportation development. We can do it right here and we’ve got to do it now.”

So here’s what’s happening…

Crews are dredging, or removing dirt and sediment, at the bottom of the river. The process will increase the river’s depth from 42 feet to 47 feet at the inner harbor and 49 feet at the outer harbor.

A deeper river means bigger, wider ships can get through. Bigger ships mean more cargo.

“It handles a lot of containers. It can not fit through the Panama Canal and it requires much greater depth because of the size of the ship,” Lynch said.

The cost of the whole project comes with a price tag of about $700 million. The state is putting up $266 million. The federal government is expected to pay the rest of the bill.

“There’s no other city that can replicate this, especially on the east coast,” Lynch said.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has been preparing for the move as well, rehabbing roadways near the port for the last five to six years.

Topping predicts in the near future, the business and commerce landscape will be drastically different.

“An updated 21st century transportation hub that allows the flow of goods into this community and out of this community in an orderly fashion,” Topping said.

Until then, preparation is key — as the state gets ready for a new experience.

The deepening of the outer harbor will take about 2 1/2 years. The overall project is expected to be complete around 2019.

There are nearly 15,000 middle Georgia jobs tied to the Port of Savannah. According to the Georgia Ports Authority, 7,310 are in Bibb County, 3,583 are in Houston County, and 1,090 are in Baldwin County.

The top exports were kaolin clay, copper, and brass wire and molds. Imports were zippers, writing articles, and fans, blowers and compressors.

The top three port customers by volume are YKK, Kamin, and Freudenberg Texbond.

SAVANNAH, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – As construction crews work to begin the dredging process on the Savannah harbor’s expansion project, middle Georgia is preparing on what economic leaders think will be a game changer for business in the region. 

Griff Lynch, the chief operating officer of the Georgia’s Port Authority, anticipates even more traffic coming to the state’s shores. 

“There’s no port growing faster than the Georgia Ports Authority today,” Lynch said. 

The effects are being felt all across the peach state, as companies strategically place themselves along interstates to have better access to the port.

“This is going to have a tremendous impact on this region,” Pat Topping with Macon’s Economic Development Commission said.

Travel with 41NBC’s Skyler Henry to Georgia’s coast as he learns how the expansion project will impact the entire state. It’s Georgia’s Port – The Game Changer Friday at on the 41NBC News at 6 p.m. 

Categories: Bibb County, Local News, Special Report

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