PDT Staff Writer
Melissa Johnson, Director of Transportation and Logistics for the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, was in Portsmouth Thursday to meet with local business leaders at a breakfast meeting at the Holiday Inn. Later in the day she met with the Scioto County Commissioners to attempt to entice Scioto County. At both meetings Johnson’s objective was to convince the listening parties to come on board with the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority for the purpose of economic development.
“I’m here promoting the port re-designation and encouraging conversations about regional economic development as it relates to the Ohio River,” Johnson told the Daily Times. “I hope to have more conversations with the Scioto County Commissioners about this idea, this project, and get some direction about the next steps they would like to take.”
Johnson said the Cincinnati Port Authority is asking Scioto County to join a regional economic development — the Ohio River initiative — which would include 18 other counties on both sides of the river, 10 of those counties in Kentucky, and also four counties in Indiana.
“We would be asking them to come together to elevate the importance of the waterways for commerce, and what that means to each of the counties individually,” Johnson said. “So our Port Authority is just helping lead that effort, that we hope the Scioto County Commissioners, the (Scioto County) Port Authority, and economic development professionals here will also be able to gain from that.”
Johnson said there is a benefit to Scioto County to become involved with the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.
“Anymore economic development efforts and economic development methods have to be global, I think, at least for transportation,” Johnson said. “Understand that transportation decisions are made around the world. And I think bringing Scioto County into a larger port district will help them in that conversation and put them more prominently on the map than what they are right now, and to help them get more tools to do that.”
Johnson said the fact that Scioto County currently shares in the Huntington Port Authority district is a plus for the area as well.
“They’re (Scioto County) in a very unique position to share in the benefits of both districts,” Johnson said. “So we hope that that really helps their message, and helps them gain more industry and commerce here.”
The Daily Times asked about the effect the expansion of the Panama Canal will have on Ohio River commerce.
“That’s a question we’re asked a lot,” Johnson said. “And we in Cincinnati don’t know. What we hear is a 50/50 split. There are some that believe that containerization will come this direction. There are others that believe that it won’t. There are a lot of variables involved in that, with actually getting containers here, filling them up, moving them back out. So we’re being diligent in just watching and listening to our private terminal operators - they know the business better than anyone, and just hoping to be prepared for if that does happen, we as a region can benefit from it.”
The minutes from an April meeting of the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority record - “The Planning Assistance to States Agreement (PAS) has been fully executed by all parties and the formal scope of work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is underway. Current efforts are concentrated on developing a significant communication strategy to engage all prospective counties and local jurisdictions to gain support for this effort. The Port Authority has received direction and feedback from the USACE and various interested parties as this project moves forward. The Port of Huntington Tri-State has provided generous support and counsel as the Port Authority evaluates the early steps of this regional initiative.”
The Cincinnati district currently delivers 12 million tons of cargo, ranking 49th in the country. They are also looking to expand from their current 26 miles of coverage to 205 miles.
Johnson said the Port Authority is looking for support from local leaders as well as state and federal officials in the way of endorsement letters to further the relationship.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.