The Port of Savannah, which has a significant impact on Coweta County’s economy, is poised for another spate of growth.
On the heels of reporting 32 percent growth in containerized trade for October, an all-time record for Savannah, the Georgia Ports Authority approved rail and gate expansion projects that will significantly increase capacity at GPA's Garden City Terminal.
The Garden City Terminal is the single largest container terminal in North America. Some Coweta industries import materials that come into the United States through the ports, and local companies also ship finished products around the world through the port.
"A strong Southeast U.S. economy, on-terminal expansion, and investment by private logistics firms throughout the region have resulted in phenomenal growth for Georgia," said Griff Lynch, GPA’s executive director. "These record volumes could not have been possible without the tireless dedication of the men and women responsible for moving this cargo. "
In addition to record container volumes, Lynch reported total tonnage for all terminals climbed by 25 percent, from 2.6 million to 3.2 million tons, for an additional 661,290 tons of cargo. Breakbulk tonnage, primarily the movement of lumber, steel and autos, also increased by 14.7 percent, signifying the growing strength of construction and manufacturing in the U.S. Southeast, he said.
The GPA board has approved expenditures of $42.27 million as part of GPA's $128 million Mason Mega Rail Terminal. The project will not only expand the harbor's on-dock rail capacity by 100 percent, but position Savannah to rapidly increase service to an arc of inland markets from Memphis to Chicago.
A total of $90.7 million has been allocated to the project thus far. Construction is slated to begin this month and be completed by the end of 2020.
"What makes Georgia and the Georgia Ports Authority a continuing success story is the relentless effort to stay one step ahead of the curve and the competition," said Jimmy Allgood, GPA’s board chairman. "The projects approved today will do exactly that."
The board also approved a $13.2 million project to expand the existing Gate 8 at Garden City Terminal. The addition will help the GPA seamlessly absorb future growth and offer a better link to the Jimmy Deloach Parkway, which provides a direct truck route to Interstate 95. The project will expand the terminal's gate infrastructure by 12.5 percent for a total of 54 truck lanes.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, on his most recent trip to Newnan, talked about the importance of the harbor and about the state’s investment in a federal program to deepen the harbor.
“We’ve invested about quarter of a billion of state funds into the deepening of the harbor. We’re still waiting on the federal match,” he said. The investment was made “because of the economic impact it has on our state."
He said regional, inland “ports” are helping to expand the impact of the Savannah-Brunswick ports, which operate as a unit. “We will be siting those inland ports to take the goods, the cargo and the containers and service the various industries” in various areas of the state, Cagle said.