With Cates work near completion, attention turns to marketing port

With Cates work near completion, attention turns to marketing port
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Lake County’s Cates Landing project is undergoing a major transformation — from a construction site to an operational riverport.
The Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority met Wednesday in Dyersburg for its monthly update on port developments.
Construction at the multi-million dollar port is virtually complete, according to Forcum-Lannom’s Michael Sanders.
He reported to the board Forcum-Lannom is transitioning control of the port  to Scott Sigman with informa economics. Sigman is a senior consultant with the Memphis consulting firm and has been hired as interim port manager until a full-time port operator is hired.
“We’re wrapping up loose ends and paperwork,” Sanders told the board. “Construction work, for the most part, is complete.”
In fact, the port authority was scheduled to do a final inspection of the open cell dock today and Maritime Administration officials were scheduled to do their final inspection of the site April 19.
Now that construction on the Mississippi River port is virtually complete, the focus of those involved in the project has shifted to marketing the port and to securing state funding for a 5.5-mile rail spur from the port site to Tiptonville. Once that rail spur is operational, it will provide the port with complete access to the Canadian National Line and will truly make the port multi-modal (river, highway and rail access)
The port authority is seeking $1.25 million from the state to finance the first two phases of the three-phase railroad project. The total cost for the rail spur has been estimated at $12-$15 million.
Port legal counsel John Lannom said Wednesday the rail project is “essential to the success of the port.”
“Since our last meeting, we’re primarily focused on our funding for the rail,” he told the port board. “In the marketing of the port, the rail is just key.”
There remains some uncertainty about where the $1.25 million in state funding will come from and when the funding will become available. Lannom said state Rep. Bill Sanderson met with Gov. Bill Haslam last week to lobby for the funding and Lannom said, if necessary, a delegation of port officials would meet with the governor in Nashville.
“We continue to push that front,” Lannom said. “It is extremely important.”
Following the reports by Sanders and Lannom, it was Sigman who then updated the port board on his work marketing the facility.
“I’m laser focused on marketing,” Sigman said as he described marketing the port to prospects as “job one.”
“Now that we’re open, we’re being looked at by lots of folks, on the state level and the federal level,” he said.
Sigman said he is using social media — Twitter and Facebook — to market the port.
Informa economics has come up with a master plan for the riverport and is working with the port authority on the hiring of a full-time port operator. Until that operator is hired, Sigman is overseeing the management of the port and is heavily involved in marketing the facility.
He informed the board he was scheduled to meet with a couple of prospects this afternoon and he is “in dialogue” with 10 potential terminal operators.
Sigman said he is working with about 20 “live prospects” that use the Mississippi River to transport freight. Among the prospects he is working with are international prospects, including a Chinese delegation, he said Wednesday.
In other action during Wednesday’s 45-minute meeting, the port authority:
• Was informed the Zurich insurance agency and the National Flood Program will provide $2.5 million in insurance coverage for the port, for a $26,572 premium.
• Was informed by port authority chairman Jimmy Williamson that office furniture, computers and audio-visual equipment will have to be purchased for the port office. The port authority will consider proposals for the items at its May meeting, according to Williamson.
• Approved the Dyersburg accounting firm Joe Enoch & Associates to continue doing the audit for the port project.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be reached by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 4.11.13 

Leave a Comment