America’s Central Port moving ahead with major expansion

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EXPANDING OPPORTUNITY: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (left of the microphone) signed a bill Aug. 1 that expands the boundaries of the Tri-City Regional Port District and changes its name to America's Central Port. Executive Director, Dennis Wilmsmeyer (at the mic) spoke during a press conference. – Zia Nizami/BND photo
EXPANDING OPPORTUNITY: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (left of the microphone) signed a bill Aug. 1 that expands the boundaries of the Tri-City Regional Port District and changes its name to America's Central Port. Executive Director, Dennis Wilmsmeyer (at the mic) spoke during a press conference.
– Zia Nizami/BND photo

Granite City – America’s Central Port, one of the leading creators of industrial jobs in the Metro East, is expanding its operating territory in a move that officials hope will generate more jobs.

The port, formerly known the Tri-City Regional Port District, already is allowed to work within four townships in Madison County – Granite City, Nameoki, Venice and Chouteau. Under legislation signed on Aug. 1 by Gov. Pat Quinn, that area will expand to include four more townships – Wood River, Alton, Godfrey and Elsah.

That extends the port’s jurisdiction along Madison County’s entire frontage on the Mississippi River and into Jersey County on the west.

The legislation also changes the name officially from Tri-City Regional Port District to America’s Central Port, although it has already been operating under the latter name. The legislation takes effect Jan. 1, 2015.

ATTRACTING MORE JOBS

America’s Central Port currently owns 1,200 acres along the river in the former location of the U.S. Army’s Charles Melvin Price Support Center.

The port leases space to businesses that can use its transportation facilities, with direct access to rail, river and roads. It also can provide access to investment capital.

“America’s Central Port has proven itself to be an economic development powerhouse that benefits the whole region,” Quinn said at the bill signing. “With this new law, the port district can now work together with even more communities to drive economic growth.”

State Rep. Dan Beiser (D-Alton) sponsored the legislation along with Sen. William Haine (D-Alton).

Said Beiser: “America’s Central Port is a leading inland waterway portal to the nation and the world. Community leaders wanted to expand its reach in the Metro East area to attract more jobs, encourage more commerce and continue the successful operation of the port.”

ECONOMIC IMPACT

A study made last year of the port’s economic impact determined that the port generates about $282 million a year, supporting an estimated 1,500 jobs directly or indirectly, substantially more than the estimates made for 2007. The port generates some $2.2 million a year in property tax revenue for Granite City, Madison, Venice and local school districts.

Activities at the port include unloading some 2,500 barges a year, plus bulk material transfers to rail cars and trucks, typically steel, fertilizer, asphalt and agricultural products. About 2.5 million tons of commodities pass through the port in a year.

The port also has 1.7 million square feet of warehouse space, a foreign trade zone, 70,000 square feet of office space, 150 residential apartments and recreation facilities. Major tenants include Abengoa Bioenergy, Arizon Industries, Mattingly Lumber and the U.S. Army Reserve.

Tri-City Regional Port District was established in 1959 to promote economic development along the river. In 2002, it took over ownership of the former Army property.

Port Executive Director Dennis Wilmsmeyer said the expansion will allow the port to initiate redevelopment projects at vacant or underutilized industrial sites.

“The expanded port will have a strategic location at the heart of the United States’ inland waterway system, which will allow us to serve three major rivers: the Mississippi, the Missouri and the Illinois,” he said.

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