Opinions and Speeches

By U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

Georgia has been named the No. 1 state in the country in which to do business for five years running.

A number of factors helped Georgia achieve this designation, including our state’s regulatory environment and tax code. Georgia also is home to the world’s busiest airport, the world’s largest airline, a beautiful coastline and a temperate climate that add to its appeal.

Another major factor in Georgia’s success is our ports. The deep-water ports of Brunswick and Savannah, our barge ports of Bainbridge and Columbus, and our inland ports in Cordele and Chatsworth are critical access points for the seamless flow of commerce and goods in the global marketplace.

Over the last 30 years, Savannah’s port has grown exponentially. One can hardly stand a few minutes on Savannah’s bustling River Street without a mega-sized container ship passing through. And we are in the process of deepening the harbor to fully accommodate new and larger Neo-Panamax ships that have entered service thanks to the expansion of the Panama Canal.

Already in 2018, the first of Georgia Ports Authority’s four new Neo-Panamax cranes came on line in March, bringing Georgia Ports Authority’s operating fleet to 27 cranes — more than any other single terminal in the nation.

The Port of Savannah is the second-busiest U.S. container exporter, which means it takes goods produced here and sends them to market overseas. A study by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business reported this year that Georgia’s ports support 439,220 full- and part-time jobs across the state.

The Savannah Harbor deepening project has the best cost-benefit ratio of any pending port project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will bring $174 million in annual net benefits to the United States and will allow for an additional 3,600 cargo containers in each transit, an increase of 78 percent.

Georgia has already contributed its share of the costs to deepen the harbor, and it is critically important for the federal government to continue to meet its funding obligation to ensure an on-time and on-budget completion of the project by 2020.

For many years, I have led efforts with my colleagues in Georgia’s congressional delegation to ensure that this deepening project stays on track. I’ve worked with nominees seeking Senate confirmation to key federal positions to ensure they understand the importance of Savannah project, and I’ve brought a vice president to the site. I’ve pursued every possible legislative angle and done what’s necessary to ensure the completion of this project.

Thankfully, these steady efforts continue to pay off. The fiscal year 2018 government funding measure signed into law on March 23, 2018, includes a $337 million increase over the president’s original budget request for construction of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers navigation projects, including the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

The anticipation of this project’s completion is as high as the stakes for the future of jobs and growth in Georgia and across the Southeast.

In March, the Georgia Ports Authority broke ground on its $126.7 million Mason Mega Rail Terminal. The expansion will increase the Port of Savannah’s rail lift capacity to 1 million containers per year and open new markets from Memphis, Tenn., to St. Louis, Mo., to Chicago, Ill., to Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is critical to Georgia, the Southeast and the entire country.

Ensuring the on-time completion of this project is a win for trade, a win for the economy and a win for the hundreds of thousands of jobs the Port of Savannah supports.

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