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CORBA incorporated and officially began operations in November of 2011. At the time of incorporation CORBA had eleven founding member companies on board. Below is a summary of the highlights of our first year of operation.

CORBA wasted no time as a legal business association, launching its website at www.corba-usa.org immediately upon incorporation. This site remains under development, but is vital to CORBA’s founding objective to promote the maritime component of our local port region. In addition to key announcements and important maritime information available on the website, each member company is featured with their own logo and photos.

Also in November 2011, the State of Ohio Department of Transportation, on behalf of the US Department of Transportation office of Maritime Administration (Mar Ad), hosted a forum at the offices of Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) in downtown Cincinnati. CORBA chairman, Eric Thomas, was asked to make a presentation about CORBA and discuss the regions maritime business community. Mr. Thomas’ presentation was the first public announcement of the new association and effectively promoted CORBA’s mission and aims.

Prior to CORBA’s official startup and ongoing, members have been busy spreading the word and forging key strategic relationships with various entities. CORBA has worked closely with the port authorities on both sides of the River including the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority (PGCDA), and the Northern Kentucky Port Authority (NKPA). One of CORBA’s founding objectives is to obtain re-designation of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ (USACE) statistical boundaries for the “Port of Cincinnati-Tristate”. This re-designation is strictly a change in the way USACE collects statistical data relative to movement of goods along the Ohio River (please refer to CORBA’s website for additional details on this objective). This concept was presented to PGCDA President and CEO, Laura Brunner, who agreed not only to support this initiative, but accepted the challenge on behalf of PGCDA to spearhead this initiative. A meeting was held at the PGCDA offices on April 24, which included Eric Doepke (River Advisory Council), Eric Thomas (CORBA), and Laura Brunner and Melissa Johnson (both of PGCDA). Mrs. Brunner then presented the idea to NKPA. This resulted in an unprecedented agreement of cooperation between the neighboring port entities to work collaboratively on this important initiative. Each entity has pledged up to $40,000 toward the USACE estimate of $100,000 to complete the re-designation process.

On May 16, 2012, CORBA held its “kick-off” event aboard a BB Riverboat in Newport, Kentucky. Roughly 70 people attended this informative event, demonstrating genuine local interest in waterborne commerce in the Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana tri-state area. There was a promising distribution of folks in attendance from both the public and private sectors, and CORBA added a few more members as a result of this meeting.

In early summer of 2012, the Ohio Soybean Council, in conjunction with their Ohio Soy 2020 series of forums, contacted CORBA requesting assistance in organizing a voyage through Meldahl Lock and Dam at Chilo, Ohio. The key objectives were to highlight the national importance of the inland river system and underscore the current precarious condition of the systems of its locks and dams. CORBA members assisted by providing key services (BB Riverboat) and by providing a local outreach to targeted stakeholders. The event was held on August 28 and was attended by about 75 people. By all accounts the event was a huge success. In addition to meeting the primary objective, this event was also successful in calling attention to the Ohio River as a local machine of commerce. Again, CORBA’s membership increased as a direct result of this event.

On September 6, CORBA held its first formal Member Meeting at the Metropolitan Club in Covington, KY. Laura Brunner, President and CEO of the PGCDA, was the keynote speaker. Mrs. Brunner highlighted her first several months on the job as PGCDA President, and shared her vision to put the “port” in the “Port”. She applauded CORBA’s efforts and explained that those efforts have played a key role in shaping the vision for PGCDA’s “port” agenda. Lunch was provided by CORBA, and all current CORBA members were asked to bring at least one guest whom they believed might be interested in membership with CORBA. CORBA’s membership grew again as a result of this meeting.

CORBA Chairman Eric Thomas attends the regular meetings of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce (CRCC) Transportation Committee (“Committee”). This Committee is led by Tom Ewing. Prior to CORBA’s involvement here, the Committee’s stated charter did not even acknowledge the River as part of the overall regional transportation system. That is now changing. On October 4, as a direct result of the Ohio Soy 2020 Lock and Dam Forum, which was attended by some of the members of this Committee, a conference call was arranged between the Committee and U.S. Representative Bob Gibbs (Ohio). Representative Gibbs serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&IC) as well as the Agriculture Committee. He also chairs the Water Resources and Environment subcommittee of the T&IC. One of CORBA’s objectives is to reach all US Representatives in CORBA’s region to insure those Representatives are keenly aware of the importance of the inland river system in our region, and to further draw attention to CORBA, its members, and its mission.

CORBA’s last official event of the year is scheduled for December 13, 2012. The second formal Member Meeting will feature Hamilton County, Ohio Commissioner Todd Portune as the keynote. Like all such member meetings, this meeting is by invitation only. Each member is encouraged to attend and is also asked to “bring-a-friend”. The goal of “bring-a-friend” is to build word of mouth awareness and drive membership in CORBA. Again, refer to the website for details.

By all measures, CORBA’s first full year of operation has been a resounding success. But there is much work yet to be done. Our major goals in 2013 will be to continue building our membership, to assist PGCDA in their efforts to gain re-designation of the USACE port boundaries for the Port of Cincinnati-Tristate, and to continue to pursue our mission by further advancing the founding objectives of the organization. Thank you for your interest in, and continued support of CORBA!

Eric Thomas