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Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 10:25am

Two-Way: Georgia Ports Authority Chief Discusses Savannah Harbor Expansion

The head of the Georgia Ports Authority announced double–digit growth in the total weight of freight moved at the Port of Brunswick Tuesday.

The increase includes a record number of auto and machinery units moved compared to last year.

Both the ports of Brunswick and Savannah have experienced a significant growth in imports and exports.

To make way for that added growth, an agreement was signed last week to deepen the Port of Savannah.

GPB Savannah Bureau Chief Sarah McCammon talked about the project with Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz. Listen to the interview by clicking the player above.

Here is a transcript of the interview.

GPB Savannah Bureau Chief Sarah McCammon: How much is the harbor expansion about new economic development versus maintaining our place as the forth-largest port and not losing ground to new competitors.

Curtis Foltz, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director : I’m not sure you separate one or the other. If you don’t deepen the Savannah River, then not only do we not grow but we start, so it’s not just as the pie grows we grow with it. Our market share actually reduces. We start losing business to neighboring states or even states on the West Coast. We start losing manufacturing opportunities that are looking for long term plays to other locations.

GPB Savannah Bureau Chief Sarah McCammon:So in theory at least bigger ships and more containers should mean more boxes on trains and trucks leaving the Savannah area going elsewhere. How prepared is Georgia’s transportation infrastructure for this expansion?

Curtis, Foltz, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director: When you look at our facilities having both class one railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern, that have direct access. You look at the road connectivity and the proximity of the highway system to our ports in Brunswick and Savannah. They’re really unparalleled in the country today. That on top of what we’ve been able to do to build the single largest in what I would say is the most efficient port complex in the United States. We’ve done a great job of it. I think we’re extremely well positioned, but we can’t ever rest and think that we don’t need to do more because we do. It’s kind of our mission everyday and I think that’s one of the things that has set Georgia apart from others. We look ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years down the road and we’re not just worried about what’s taking place today.

GPB Savannah Bureau Chief Sarah McCammon:The state of Georgia is putting up the first $266 million that’s valued at more than $700 million total. Given the good luck in Washington, how confident are you that Congress will come through with the rest of the funding?

Curtis, Foltz, Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director:When you’ve got a project that is as justifiable as this project is and has such a huge return to the nation in terms of reduced transportation costs which does nothing but translate directly to our competitiveness as a country. I’m pretty confident that the federal government is going to step up and fund their portion. None of us are going to be able to rest until the last shovel of sand comes up from the bottom of the river, but our delegation is in lock step.

That’s something you see very rarely. Whether it’s the governor, it’s our elected officials in Washington, our Senators or our Representatives, they are to a person behind this project. It gives it a lot of weight in Washington D.C. when you have mayor Kasim Reed who’s been a great friend to the port and the state that has put this on the top of his priority list. You’re not going to find many Georgians that don’t have it on their to-do list. I think when you’re in a position like that it gives us a lot of weight and a big position to get it funded in Washington. At the end of the day Washington wants it, the core wants it because of the huge benefit to cost of return that you have through this project.