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Red tape blocking some port work by consultants

Red tape blocking some port work by consultants
Staff Reporter
Federal red tape is holding up progress on Lake County’s Cates Landing Port project once again.
The Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority met for nearly 45 minutes Wednesday morning in Dyersburg to review progress on the Mississippi River port project, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
Recent updates on the riverport project place the project on schedule and on budget, but one of the key elements the board is waiting on is a master plan and port operator report from informa economics.
The port board hired the Memphis consulting firm in January to come up with the two reports, but federal funding for the reports is being stalled while the U.S. Department of Agriculture reviews the criteria used to select informa economics as the winning bidder to do the master plan.
Dyersburg attorney John Lannom, who has been advising the port board on legal issues, reported Wednesday the USDA’s state office has forwarded the matter to the USDA’s federal office in Washington, D.C. Lannom reminded the board the bid from informa economics was the most affordable and included the best time frame to draft a master plan and port operator report.
The port board is seeking 100 percent funding from the USDA to pay for the work being done by informa economics.
The $144,000 bid from informa economics was accepted by the port board in mid-January.
Originally, informa economics had planned to have elements of a master plan prepared for the board by the end of May. The master plan will include a market study, a list of prospective industries, a grow-out development plan, a toll and tariff schedule and a terminal operator terms of reference report.
So far, however, informa economics has only been able to provide updates to the board on the agency’s work.
Ken Eriksen, senior vice president for informa economics, attended Wednesday’s meeting and talked about his firm’s status on drafting a master plan.
“We are making progress,” he announced.
He said his firm is working on a matrix to identify potential port operators and has identified a 150-mile radius as the port’s market area. Eriksen discussed his agency’s work on identifying prospects for the port, competition and marketing opportunities. One issue that came up in his report to the board was the need for progress on a planned railroad connection to the port site.
The route for a planned railroad connection has been identified, according to port board chairman Jimmy Williamson, but there is no funding for what is expected to be a more than $7 million project.
“We’ve just not had the money to develop it,” Williamson said. “I think we can get the help we need.”
He said the port authority will need to look to the state legislature to seek funding for the railroad project.
The port board is scheduled to meet again at 9 a.m. on July 11 under a tent at the port site.
Another delay in the Cates Landing project has been federal approval of a Foreign Trade Zone application. Lannom provided the board with an update on that phase of the project, saying the application is still under review by federal officials. Lannom said the application was “well received and will be granted” but there was no news on when the application will be approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The delays by the federal government are expected to be worked out, and Lannom offered a statement of optimism, saying, “I think we can all be proud of where we are today.”
Williamson said during Wednesday’s meeting that managing the $20 million port project involving state and federal officials has been “ a handful.”
On a more positive note, it was announced at the meeting that the state Department of Transportation has put up 17 Cates Landing signs in Obion, Lake and Dyer counties. Mike Sanders, senior project executive with Forcum Lannom Contractors, provided a slideshow of progress being made at the port site.
“Everything is progressing at this point,” he said. “It’s going well.”
Sanders announced a pre-bid meeting was scheduled for today for the contract to build the new port office building. Bids for the modular building will officially be opened on June 28 and a report is expected to be made at the port authority’s July 11 meeting.
Sanders also showed a graphic depiction of the new monument sign that is planned for the port site.
“It looks real nice when you see the renderings of it,” he said.
It was announced as part of his report that the new 40,000-square-foot warehouse being built by Universal Contractors LLC of Union City is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 16. The contract for the warehouse construction is $1,575,000.
In attendance at Wednesday’s meeting were two key state officials who will be involved in the port once it’s completed. State Department of Economic Development official Blake Swaggart introduced Lori Odom, director of global projects for the state department, and Gina Brown, project manager for national recruitment for the state. All three state officials were given a personal tour of the port site Wednesday by Williamson and Forcum Lannom officials.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at
Published in The Messenger 6.14.12

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