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GPA: Ports creating wave of growth
1001 state of the ports
Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz addresses more than 1,300 attendees at the annual state of the ports luncheon. - photo by Georgia Ports Authority photo by Stephen Morton

In his annual state of the port address Thursday, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz reported 1,900 new jobs and 2.7 million square feet of industrial expansion tied to a year of growth for Georgia’s deepwater ports.

“Record growth at our ports, coupled with strong statewide pro-business leadership, clearly played a pivotal role in landing these new companies and related jobs, including developments by Bed, Bath & Beyond, Pactra and Trident Seafood,” Foltz said. “This strong performance not only aided the addition of 1,900 new port-related jobs, but created additional positions throughout the transportation and logistics chain as well as supporting more than 350,000 jobs across the state.”

Gov. Nathan Deal said Georgia’s ports are a key facet in the state’s ability to attract and grow industries.

“Our ports are a critical driver of our economy, creating jobs and offering new opportunities in every corner of the state,” Deal said. “In the past two years alone, Georgia has been ranked the top state in the U.S. for business by three different scoring agencies.

“Our state’s commitment to maintaining a high-performing, interconnected logistics infrastructure such as our ports is one of the reasons we were able to achieve this success. Companies know that when they choose to locate here, they are choosing a state with a global logistics hub, top-ranked workforce and a business-friendly government.”

Foltz also detailed progress toward deepening the Savannah Harbor, including $266 million in construction dollars set aside by Gov. Deal and the General Assembly; the signing of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which gave final federal authorization; and the imminent signing of the federal-state cost sharing agreement, which will allow construction to start in the coming weeks.

“Improving the Savannah Harbor is vitally important to the continued economic health of this state and region,” Deal said. “By accommodating larger, more efficient vessels, the deepening will reduce shipping costs for American businesses by $213 million a year.”

GPA Board Chairman James Walters added that the port deepening will further empower Georgia’s deepwater ports to stimulate growth.

“The success of our ports helps to sustain and grow jobs within the logistics industry and beyond,” said Walters. “By improving the capacity and efficiency of our terminals, we provide a more cost-effective gateway to global markets for goods from American farms, forests and factories.”

Before an audience of 1,300, Foltz also discussed how the Port of Savannah is making infrastructure improvements to more than double its current throughput within 10 years and accommodate more than 6.5 million TEUs per year on the existing terminal footprint.

Long-term plans call for increasing the number of ship-to-shore cranes from 22 to 30 and rubber-tired gantry cranes from 116 to 169.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation will complete the Jimmy Deloach Parkway Extension in the summer of 2016 to provide a one-of-a-kind cargo beltway connecting the Port of Savannah with Interstates 95 and 16.

In fiscal year 2014, the GPA handled record total tonnage and container traffic, moving 29.4 million tons of cargo (up 8 percent) and 3.14 million 20-foot equivalent container units (TEUs), up by 6.3 percent compared to the previous year.