Port funds coming; industries to follow
Posted: Friday, March 18, 2011 9:02 pm
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Gov. Bill Haslam couldn’t have chosen a better day to visit Obion County to talk about the area’s future.
The weather was beautiful, he brought with him the good news that he has included $7 million in his state budget for the Cates Landing port project … and then even greater news traveled with him by way of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Congressman Stephen Fincher made it official, prior to Haslam’s arrival in Union City, that the $13 million TIGER II grant for the port project has been approved.
Now that all the funding is in place for the Cates Landing project, the next step is getting it built. That’s expected to take about 18 months.
Four industrial prospects have already expressed interest in locating at the Lake County port, it was announced during Thursday’s meeting.
“Since the late 1980s, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Nucor Steel, ConAgra Foods and others have seriously considered various projects worth more than $1.73 billion for Cates Landing due to its central location and special physical attributes,” the Cates Landing TIGER II application states in part. “All had to decline due to the lack of a port.”
The four industrial prospects considering locating at the port are in addition to the three prospects identified in the TIGER II grant proposal.
The Messenger has learned that during the past week, port officials met with one of those four prospects, according to Phillip Pinion. The former state representative is working with the Obion County Chamber of Commerce on promoting local economic development projects.
At Thursday afternoon’s news conference, it was Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire who opened the program.
In his welcoming remarks, he told the audience, “this all started with a dream.”
McGuire was joined at the head table by Haslam, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, Agriculture Commissioner Julius Jones, state Sen. Roy Herron, state Rep. Bill Sanderson and port authority chairman Jimmy Williamson.
In the audience were numerous officials from across the region.
It was Haslam who was in the spotlight though, as he talked about the importance of the port project and what it will mean for not only northwest Tennessee but for the entire state.
He praised area legislators, describing them as being “very fervent advocates for you in Nashville.”
The governor went on to explain his reasoning behind including the $7 million in state funding for the project in his state budget, saying his administration is focused on being strategic in where state funds are invested. Gov. Haslam said the Lake County project makes sense for state investment because it will create jobs for the region and will change the future for northwest Tennessee and the state.
Haslam said he was “thrilled” to include funding for the project in his state budget and called approval of the entire $20 million in state and federal funds a “historic moment for this project.”
“I personally believe that we got the TIGER II grant because of John Tanner,” Williamson said during his remarks.
“We owe a great deal of gratitude to Congressman (Stephen) Fincher and Senator Bob Corker,” he added.
He updated the audience on the complete history of the project before turning over the microphone to Hagerty, who called the port’s funding news a “great announcement” for the region.
Throughout the news conference, everyone who spoke about the Lake County port project praised the teamwork that has brought the project this far.
Hagerty said the cooperative effort “sets an example for the entire state.”
He added that he and his staff are “very excited” about the project.
Herron said the cooperation on the project has been “unprecedented” and explained that the port project has taken two decades, involved three counties, two political parties and three levels of government.
In related news, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker released statements Thursday praising the U.S. Department of Transportation’s allocation of $13 million for the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port at Cates Landing.
“The Port at Cates Landing has been one of my top priorities for several years as a United States senator,” Alexander said. “West Tennessee communities have worked long and hard to earn this funding through a competitively awarded grant. This new step in the development of the port will help make it easier and cheaper to bring much-needed private-sector jobs to West Tennessee.”
“Completion of the port and related infrastructure at Cates Landing will be a huge boost for the economy and will have a lasting positive impact on the region and our state,” Corker said. “I’m particularly proud of the hard work done at the local, state and federal levels to secure these competitive grant funds. At a time when everyone knows we need to do more with less and dramatically reduce spending in Washington, this effort is a good use of existing resources.”
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 3.18.11