Full federal funding has been obtained for the continuing project to deepen the Savannah harbor.
The deepening is associated with having larger ships use the port at Savannah. The port is a major economic engine in Georgia and the southeastern United States. Many Coweta companies either bring raw materials from overseas through the port or ship finished products there – or both.
Georgia U.S. senators – Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga. – along with U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga.-01 announced the securing of “full capability funding” which will keep the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project on track in fiscal year 2020.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 on March 12. That budget recommends more than $130 million in federal funds for SHEP. This is the third year in a row SHEP will receive full federal funding if that amount is included in the final appropriations bill.
“Today’s news is real cause for celebration. I’ve been fighting for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project for 20 years, and with this announcement, the finish line is finally in sight,” Isakson said. “Our continuous efforts are paying off, and we all look forward to seeing this project through to completion.”
“Pres. Trump has broken through the bureaucracy and recommended full funding for SHEP for the third year in a row,” Perdue said.
Efforts have been underway to deepen the port five feet to accommodate the larger Post Panamax ships for close to 20 years. Larger ships are being built after the expansion of the Panama Canal, and many longtime ports are not deep enough to accommodate the new vessels.
“The Port of Savannah is the third largest and fastest growing port in the United States. SHEP has the best benefit to cost ratio of all port projects across the country at 7.3 to 1, and ensuring the project’s on-time completion is key to increasing our exports and continuing to grow our economy,” Perdue said.
“It is extremely gratifying to see the unwavering support of the president toward completing this critical national infrastructure project,” said Jimmy Allgood, Georgia Ports Authority board chairman. “Funding at this level, which represents full capability for the coming year, ensures that the project remains on schedule.”
In advance of the administration’s fiscal year 2020 budget planning, letters were sent by Isakson and Perdue and by Carter, Rep. Drew Ferguson and the rest of the Georgia U.S. House delegation to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney pointing to the project’s approaching final stages and requesting $130.28 million to keep the project on track in the president’s fiscal year 2020 budget.
Isakson, Perdue and Carter met with Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James to discuss the fiscal year 2020 budget request on Feb. 14 in Isakson’s Washington office.
“The ports remain one of the biggest economic generators for our state, and we continue to benefit from that,” Candace Boothby, president of the Newnan Coweta Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday.
“If the port’s successful, we’re successful,” Boothby said.
Griff Lynch, Georgia Ports Authority executive director, thanked the Georgia House and Senate delegations and Gov. Brian Kemp for seeing the project through. “The collective effort of Georgia has made our ports global leaders in trade and job creation, not only for our state but for the nation as a whole,” he said.
Georgia has major ports at both Savannah and Brunswick, which function administratively as a single entity under GPA.
“There is no doubt SHEP is Georgia’s top infrastructure project and will help our country compete globally,” Perdue said.
The number of container units coming into the ports grew by 7.5 percent last year. The Port of Savannah moved more than 350,000 twenty-foot equivalent container units in December, and nine of the Georgia Ports Authority's 10 busiest months were in 2018.
"The reason Georgia's ports remain the fastest growing in the nation is because we are quickly adding capacity to our operations," Allgood said.
In February of last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed outer harbor dredging at the Port of Savannah, marking the midpoint for SHEP.
On March 13, Kemp announced record international trade numbers for Georgia. The state’s 2018 international trade surpassed $40.5 billion, a 9 percent increase over 2017. Total trade between Georgia and the world spanned 223 countries and territories, reaching a new high at $139.3 billion.
“Trade is a vital part of our state’s economy, and it is exciting to see Georgia products in such high demand across the globe,” Kemp said.
“Georgia’s export story is fundamentally about small businesses finding global success,” said GDEcD Deputy Commissioner for International Trade Mary Waters. “Our team assists hundreds of companies each year, half of which employ fewer than 20. These entrepreneurial businesses are poised to grow faster and create higher-paying jobs across Georgia because of stronger international sales.”