Isakson: Ports most important issue facing state
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson met last week with the editorial board of The Albany Herald — telling them that expanding the port in Savannah is the most important issue facing the state.
“There is nothing bigger right now for the entire state. The port provides more than 297,000 jobs directly to the state of Georgia. There is no bigger contributor, other than agriculture, to our economy,” Isakson said.
The senator’s comments in Albany were published in other newspapers around the state, including in Macon, hours from the coast. That’s because the port is a big economic factor for the entire state — including Coweta County — and holds the potential for even greater economic impact if the port can be deepened and improved.
Expansion of the port is the rare issue that has brought together Georgia politicians from different political spectrums. Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, have led the campaign to get funding and support for the port expansion. We applaud Reed and Deal for putting aside political differences to work for what is best for Georgians.
Candace Boothby, president of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce, has been frank about the impact of the ports on our economy. “Coweta has major international businesses that utilize the Savannah port to import and export tens of millions of dollars of products,” she said in 2012.
The impact of the ports “creates new jobs and stabilizes current employment in Coweta,” Boothby said.
Boothby has referred to the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project as “absolutely critical to the continued success of Coweta industries.”
State Rep. David Stover also spoke in favor of the expansion project when he was running for office. “The bigger the ship, the better — the more you can ship,” he said during a campaign appearance. “We have the fastest -growing port in the nation.”
The Georgia legislature recently approved $50 million in additional funding for the project, which increases the state’s commitment to more than $230 million.
The port-deepening project follows an expansion of the Panama Canal. Larger ships will be passing through the locks in Panama and will go to ports that can accommodate them. For Savannah to be one of those ports, the harbor there needs to be deepened by five feet.
The Panama project is scheduled for completion in 2015.
We applaud the support of local, state and federal officials in moving the harbor project forward. These improvements will strengthen Coweta’s economy and benefit our citizens for years to come.