Governor addressed annual State of the Port presentation, reveals performance growth

Governor Nathan Deal discusses GPA FY2017 results at the State of the Port Address (Credit: Robert Catanese)

On Thursday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal addressed more than 300 people at the annual State of the Port presentation.

He said the ports' performance highlights the value these assets bring to the entire state's economy.

“With the success of the port, so goes the success of our state,” said Deal.

Record cargo volumes, infrastructure development and two new customers bring a combined 1 million square feet of additional distribution center space to Savannah, and equates to 8.3 percent growth.

Deal said the growth of the port has allowed businesses to seek out Georgia, he says the state was named the best state to conduct business for the fourth year in a row.

“An efficient port that was easy to get to, quick to load and unload and makes their decision to come to Georgia that much easier,” said Deal.

Savannah handled 3.85 million 20-foot equivalent units, and Brunswick moved 607,000 auto and machinery units. No other port in the Southeast recorded greater volumes.

Deal said the growth is not going unnoticed at the state capital.

“Everybody in the general assembly of Georgia now recognizes the importance that this port plays in the economy of our state as a whole,” said Deal.

The governor said the port growth could be the tip of the iceberg if Washington makes it a high priority.

“We need the federal government to step up and do their share of what it takes to deepen our harbor and to deepen our channel,” said Deal.

Griff Lynch is the Executive Director of the GPA. He acknowledged the record year statistics but said the growth potential may be limited moving forward.

“We're losing exports even with that record growth it could be higher because there are exports that want to go through Savannah that are being diverted to other ports because the ships can't handle it,” said Lynch.

Lynch announced two new customers, Noble House, a national furniture supplier, and an accessories company, Best Choice. Both adding to the port's industrial footprint.

“The reasons why they chose Savannah was the port and having property in close proximity to the port that can be developed that's a real strength here,” said Lynch.

For Deal, he says the future success of the port hinges on harbor expansion project.

“We want more money from the federal government to go ahead and allow us to complete this project in a timely fashion,” said Deal.

Deal said the state has already funded $266 million since the project inception. Lynch says he’s optimistic on what he is hearing coming out of Washington regarding the president’s upcoming budget.

“We need about a hundred million dollars a year and so that number has to be pumped up. We think the SHEP [Savannah Harbor Expansion Project] project sells itself. When we talk about those benefits of 7.3 to 1 that's not a Georgia Ports Authority number that's an Army Corps of Engineers number so it's the highest rated project it's their number one priority so we see this thing happening,” said Lynch.

Lynch outlined further growth plans, like the $128 million Mega-Rail Project, which will service markets like Atlanta to Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and the Ohio Valley. Also, the Port of Savannah has 10 Super Post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes on order.

Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 369,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $20.4 billion in income.

The Port of Savannah handled 8.2 percent of the U.S. containerized cargo volume and 10.3 percent of all U.S. containerized exports in CY2015.