New port a huge growth opportunity

Eric Thomas, general manager of Benchmark River and Rail Terminals, is a co-founder and past chairman of CORBA.


The culmination of work by a number of organizations and individuals was finally realized with the recent announcement that the U.S. Army Corps had approved the redesignation of the Port of Cincinnati. The approval officially expanded the newly named Ports of Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky from 26 miles to nearly 227 miles, stretching along 15 counties of Ohio and Kentucky, from Trimble County, Kentucky, east to near Portsmouth, Ohio. A seven-mile stretch of the Licking River is also included.


So what exactly does this mean for the region, the local maritime industry and the economy?


For the last few years, the Central Ohio River Business Association (CORBA) has worked closely with the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and the Northern Kentucky Port Authority on the redesignation process. As an organization dedicated to promoting and expanding Ohio River Commerce, CORBA realized the tremendous economic and marketing potential the redesignation offers.


By redesignating the port boundary, the Ports of Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky becomes the second-busiest inland port in the nation based on total freight tonnage. Under the former boundaries, the port handled 12 million tons of freight. The expanded port adds another 36 million tons of freight for a total of 48 million tons.


That elevates the Ports of Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky to the 15th busiest of all ports nationally, larger than our peer river port cities of St. Louis (37 million tons), Pittsburgh (35.million tons) and Memphis (13 million tons).


CORBA and other economic development organizations such as Northern Kentucky Tri-ED and REDI Cincinnati can now take advantage of a port that is larger, more active and enjoys a greater status as we market our existing terminals, respective communities and entire region as a destinations for growth and business.


The major goal of the redesignation is to provide strength to the broader, regional and shared asset of Ohio River commerce. A larger port region will substantially enhance the local economic development efforts to promote the Ohio River commerce and the local maritime industry.


As U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, put it, the redesignation “is great news for Cincinnati and the entire region.”


“Expanding the port’s boundaries will raise its profile and help attract new business at an important time, as volume of international materials and commodities entering the United States continue to grow,” the senator said in a statement.


The overall redesignation effort was an unprecedented, multijurisdictional, bipartisan collaboration that truly defines “regionalism,” and which should serve as a model for future collaboration that can benefit the entire region now and into the future.


The power of harnessing the larger port statistics from the standpoint of marketing for our region is significant. It is now up to CORBA, through collaboration with its members and all the jurisdictions up and down the reach of the central Ohio River that make up the new Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, to unleash that marketing potential.


We must capitalize on the momentum from this event to the good of the entire region.


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