Ninety-nine percent of the time when someone comments on government, it’s negative. So it’s good to take note when something works - and with the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project we need to celebrate.
Two times in recent months we have heard North Georgia government leaders (Rep. David Ralston, Blue Ridge, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Gainesville) talk about how this project isn’t just important on our coast, but crucial to businesses in our mountains.
At first it may seem a minor project, the harbor is only being dredged down another five feet – from 42 to 47 feet deep. But the impact is massive to economies across the Peach state. When complete, the extra depth will allow supertankers that use the Panama Canal to be loaded and unloaded in Georgia -- rather than some other port in another area.
The deepening of the port and all the related shipping that goes with it is being called the largest economic development and job creation initiative in the state and across the southeastern region in recent history.
Congressman Tom Graves (14th District) said, “This project is vital to our state and the country in many ways, but in simple terms, it means we’ll have new jobs and opportunities for a lot of Georgia families. Those supertankers will arrive at the harbor full of goods, and Georgia businesses will make sure they leave full. I applaud the Georgia delegation for working together to secure this victory for our constituents.”
The project - with $662 million in federal funds and $231 million in state dollars committed to it - packs a massive wallop. Consider some of the figures put out by local leaders and by the Georgia Ports Authority regarding the project that has lingered for 14 years:
• It will bring in $174 million in net annal benefits across the nation.
• It will create 11,554 new jobs.
• Georgia’s ports already support 352,000 jobs spread across the state - including virtually all companies that ship products.
• More than 20,000 companies in the country rely on the Georgia ports for shipping.
• One out of 12 Georgians work at a company that ships something or receives something coming through this port.
• More than $2.5 billion in state taxes are derived from the port.
• Every dollar spent on this project returns $5.50 in economic return.
In addition to those figures, another number to consider is 16. All 14 Georgia lawmakers in the house and both senators voted for the project and praised it– evidence that full cooperation gets things done.
This is something that was needed and makes sense financially and otherwise. It’s a tangible project everyone can understand: make the port deeper so bigger ships can dock here.
It’s also important to note that unlike so much that goes wrong in Washington, the deepening project did not end up strangled by our ongoing feuds with neighboring states over drinking water – something that early on appeared to spell trouble.
In the end Doug Collins (9th District Congressman) celebrated keeping these issues separate. “This legislation gives Northeast Georgia the freedom to plan for the future of our beautiful lakes as we see fit, and it gets Georgia farm produce out into the markets more efficiently,” he said. “ [It’s] a win for Georgia, it’s a win for American competitiveness, and it’s a win for the Constitution.”
Even though it’s only five feet of muck from the bottom of our port, the impact on the state’s economy is huge and this five feet of muck shows what could happen if government works together and sticks to the issue in front of it.