Port officials use new figures to highlight economic potential
QUINCY (WFEM) – The Mid-America Port Commission, centered around Quincy and Hannibal, handled 15 million tonnes of cargo in 2020, placing it three places on the list of the top 50 U.S. ports.
This is 3 million tonnes more than in 2019.
When combined with the other two ports of Peoria and the Quad Cities that make up the Corn Belt Port Statistical Area, they become the equivalent of the largest inland port in the country.
Cornbelt port officials are now using these facts to market the ports to Congress.
“We just can’t ignore the cornbelt, it’s the largest grain producing region in the United States,” said Robert Sinkler, executive director of cornbelt ports coordination. “A lot of it comes right through here through the Mid-America Port Commission.”
The show begins on the Mississippi River. When long barges attempt to pass through these locks, they must be divided into sections because the century-old locks are not long enough to accommodate modern river traffic.
This is where local lobbyists come in.
“We weren’t recognized for the amount of tonnage that actually comes from the Mississippi,” said Mike Klingner, president and CEO of Klingner and Associates. “And looking at that, a lot of that credit was actually going further south, to the St. Louis district, for example.”
He and the other waterway officials worked together to market the Corn Belt ports as the country’s largest inland port.
The goal is to use this information to push for the renovation of six locks on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. After combining the three ports into one statistical domain, they hope to gain the attention of Congress.
“It hasn’t been given the attention to fund the locks in the Quincy and Hannibal area, but we also have port authorities on the Illinois River and the Peoria area and closer to the Quad Cities area,” Klingner said. “All of these areas have docks, but they weren’t all working together to show us their tonnage. “
The long-term goal is to expand the Port of Quincy to carry even more cargo, which could attract more businesses to the area.
Klingner and Sinkler say the Port of Quincy is the most northerly in the Mississippi that could potentially do business year round.
“There’s no ice problem here, so it’s really an all-weather, all-weather place here on the Mississippi, the upper reaches of the Mississippi River, so heavy traffic can move all year round,” Sinkler said.
Sinkler says Corn Belt ports have increased freight tonnage over the past year. They hope this shows policymakers that the money would be well spent here.
“The numbers came out for the report this year, we saw an almost 24% increase, a 25% increase in tonnage and it went from the 44th largest port in the United States to the 41st,” he said. he declares.
Klingner and Sinkler say that if funding for improvements is blocked, it could lead to an explosion of economic growth in the region.
“It will improve efficiency,” Klingner said. “People know there is a real problem finding truck drivers for example, and a large barge can take the equivalent of 870 trucks.”
Sinkler says they hope to get $ 1.8 billion of the $ 2.5 billion allocated to improving waterways.
U.S. Senators Dick Durbin, Tammy Duckworth, Charles Grassley, Joni Ernst and Roy Blunt, along with U.S. Representatives Darin LaHood, Rodney Davis, Sam Graves, and Mariannette Miller-Meeks all recently signed a bicameral, bipartisan letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers asking the agency to prioritize funding for the construction of the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) on the upper Mississippi River system with the $ 2.5 billion for inland waterways provided for in law on investment in infrastructure and employment.
The NESP would modernize and expand obsolete locks at the most congested lock locations along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, and fund more than $ 1 billion for ecosystem restoration. A study published in 2019 by the United States Department of Agriculture showed that rebuilding the NESP locks would inject an additional $ 72 billion into the country’s GDP.
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