Georgia Port Authority marks double-digit growth in total cargo

In a press release today, the Georgia Port Authority announced that it had it busiest February to date with a 10% increase over last February. The GPA moved 2.94 million tons across all docks, a figure surpassed only by January’s 3.01 million tons.

“Ocean carriers have recognized the Port of Savannah as the must-call port to serve the Southeastern U.S.,” GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch reported to the Authority Board Monday. “With the coming realignment of the shipping alliances in April, Savannah will offer more container services than any other East Coast or Gulf port, at 35 weekly vessel calls.”
Lynch said Savannah’s Ocean Terminal also achieved significant growth in February, with a 9.2 percent increase in breakbulk cargo for the month, led by linerboard, iron and steel, and autos.
“A 38 percent increase in iron and steel is a good leading indicator of future growth in construction, as well as automobile and other manufacturing,” he said.
Additionally, the ports chief noted that this week Garden City Terminal in Savannah will commission a new Neo-Panamax ship-to-shore crane, with three more set to come online by mid-April. A separate, $45.3 million order will bring four more cranes to the terminal in 2018, for a total of 30.
These cranes are necessary to serve the larger vessels calling on Savannah. In the six months prior to the late June 2016 opening of the expanded Panama Canal, Garden City Terminal had hosted no vessels with a capacity of 10,000 or more TEUs. From July through December 2016, the Port of Savannah received 31 calls from 10,000+ TEU vessels – matched only by Norfolk and New York-New Jersey on the U.S. East Coast.
“As our business expands, we are investing in the infrastructure that supports that growth so that we can continue to fulfill our mission of supporting American exports and bringing new industry to Georgia,” said GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood.
In other business, the GPA Board approved a power grid upgrade to provide greater resiliency and capacity for electric-powered equipment at Garden City Terminal. Chief Operating Officer Ed McCarthy said the Port of Savannah’s continuing shift away from diesel saves the authority millions of dollars annually in energy costs and avoids tons of diesel emissions.
Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 369,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $20.4 billion in income, $84.1 billion in revenue and $2.3 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy. The Port of Savannah handled 8.2 percent of the U.S. containerized cargo volume and 10.3 percent of all U.S. containerized exports in CY2015.

It’s Time To Tax Internet Sales

This week’s Courier Herald column:

JCPenney, once among the nation’s largest and proudest retailers, announced last week that it would be closing an additional 138 stores nationwide. Five Georgia stores, including those in Dublin, Macon, Milledgeville, Thomasville, and Tifton will be shuttered.

While JCPenney has had recent struggles trying to define its brand and marketing mix, it is not an outlier in the retail landscape. Macy’s announced in January that it is closing 68 stores nationwide including their Athens location in Georgia Square Mall. Sears Holdings, which operates both Sears and K-Mart stores, is also planning on 150 store closures this year, including Georgia locations in Columbus, Cornelia, Kingsland, and Savannah.

The trend against many established big box retailers is strong, and appears to be growing. There are also signs that it’s not just department stores experiencing capacity issues. A recent Atlanta Journal Constitution report suggests that the metro area may have too many grocery stores.

While some of the closures are due to newer, smaller, and more nimble competitors entering the market, it’s now also easy to see a broad shift from large brick and mortar retailers to internet sales channels. The days of the internet being a new fragile frontier of commerce are over. Continue reading “It’s Time To Tax Internet Sales”

Ralston Puts “Other Georgia” In The Spotlight

This week’s Courier Herald column:

There was a time in recent Georgia history when it was impolite to talk about the concept of “Two Georgias”. There was the thriving and growing Atlanta – the economic engine of the state.

Then, there was everything else. The “Other Georgia”. The people that could see the writing on the wall. The people who knew their rural grip on power was slipping. The people who could see that economic and population trends were shifting against them. The people who liked things the way they were, but knew times were changing whether they liked it or not.

With the assistance of UGA professor and Georgia political master Dr. Charles Bullock, we believe the term was popularized during the administration of Governor Joe Frank Harris by the late Doug Bachtel. “Two Georgias” was not a term of endearment. It was, in essence, perceived as a threat to those at the Capitol that they were spending too much time courting the favor of the business interests of Atlanta, and not the greater population that lived outside the area.

The 80’s were several lifetimes ago in Georgia politics. Time did march on, and political and demographic trends did shift. Continue reading “Ralston Puts “Other Georgia” In The Spotlight”

Columbus Cottonmouths Facing Extinction

In a breaking news story, the Ledger-Enquirer reported yesterday that Columbus’ minor league hockey team is looking for new owners. Current team owners, Wanda and Shelby Amos, son of Aflac founder John Amos, purchased the Cottonmouths with Shelby’s uncle, Sal Diaz-Verson, in 2001. They bought the team from Martha and Charlie Morrow after the latter lost a battle to cancer.

In an interview with the Ledger, Wanda Amos stated that the team has suffered a financial loss into the six-figures every year of ownership. Yet, General Manager Jerome Bechard is optimistic that a new owner can be secured before the end of the season. He is so sure, in fact, that ticket renewals for next season will go on sale Monday. However, no deposit is required until June 1. Bechard’s hope is that sales will prove the team’s worth to the community at large. Continue reading “Columbus Cottonmouths Facing Extinction”

GA Power Suspends Work On Stewart County Nuclear Reactor Site

Georgia Power is shelving, at least temporarily, plans to add additional nuclear power generating capacity at a proposed plant in Stewart County, just south of Columbus. Dave Williams of the Atlanta Business Chronicle brings the news:

The PSC voted last summer to authorize Georgia Power to spend up to $99 million to cover the early stages of the project in Stewart County through the second quarter of 2019.

But since then, Toshiba Corp. has announced that subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Co. – the chief contractor currently building nuclear plants in South Carolina and at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle – will stop constructing nuclear reactors. Last month, Toshiba blamed a projected $6.3 billion write-down on losses from its U.S. nuclear operations.

In a letter dated March 1, a lawyer representing Georgia Power wrote that the work in Stewart County is being suspended because demand projections show there will be no need for new nuclear generation of electricity until outside the utility’s three-year planning process.

Continue reading “GA Power Suspends Work On Stewart County Nuclear Reactor Site”

Quality Schools Key To Economic Development

This week’s Courier Herald column:

The sales pitch for investment in education is tried and true. We can pay now, or we can pay more later.

Most often, this equation is linked to the rising expense of our criminal justice system. Most education advocates can quickly equate the cost of educating a student versus the cost of housing one prisoner. Those without a quality education are significantly more likely to end up behind bars. Thus, the sales pitch is made that we can spend more now on education, or end up spending much more later on prisons.

Governor Nathan Deal used the groundbreaking of the new Cyber Innovation Training Center in Augusta to change the sales pitch a bit. The Center, which will train Georgians for positions supporting the Army’s new Cyber Command based at nearby Ft. Gordon, is a strategic investment to leverage the Command with Augusta University as a foothold to incubate a community of private sector employers to co-locate nearby.

The Governor didn’t mince words when it comes to the weak link in the plan. According to a report by WJBF’s Anne Maxwell, Governor Deal said of Richmond County “They have too many failing schools…people do notice…the military takes note of that.”

Richmond County Schools have some of the worst performing schools in the state. A double digit number would have been eligible for state takeover had the Opportunity School District amendment passed. It didn’t, and many school systems (including Richmond County) are pretending that we no longer have a problem. More on that later. Continue reading “Quality Schools Key To Economic Development”

GA Ports Ink Marketing Deal With Virginia Ports

Container ship approaching Savannah’s Garden City Terminal. Photo by Charlie Harper

Two major port authorities are linking up to highlight the benefits of using deep water East Coast ports.  The Georgia Ports Authority and the Virginia Port Authority are combining resources into a marketing effort aimed at taking market share from west coast ports and smaller and/or less efficient east coast ports after the expansion of the Panama Canal has even bigger ships calling on ports along the eastern seaboard.

From a joint press release:

SAVANNAH, GA and NORFOLK, VA The Georgia Ports Authority and the Virginia Port Authority filed on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to create the “East Coast Gateway Terminal Agreement.”

The agreement encourages voluntary cooperation in the areas of operational and supply chain efficiencies, safety, communications and customer service. Continue reading “GA Ports Ink Marketing Deal With Virginia Ports”

Casinos: Georgia Is Leaving Significant Money On The Table

Two weeks ago I wrote a column debunking the thought that we don’t have significant legalized wagering going on already in Georgia. We do, and it’s available at every corner store, fully backed by the Georgia constitution, and sanctioned and governed by the Georgia Lottery Corporation.

We’re more than a little pregnant on the issue.  We have institutionalized legal gaming in Georgia.  This fact is not debatable. It is a settled question.

Open for debate is how to spend the revenue generated by a new tax on gaming revenue.  The original bill dedicated all the money to the HOPE scholarship fund.  Newer versions of gaming bills include money to ensure HOPE loses no ground, but include projects such as needs-based college scholarships, rural healthcare, and rural broadband.  This debate is wide open, and everything seems to be on the table.

In between is the most important question that is being debated but has a clear answer:  Is the state financially better off by legalizing casinos in a limited “destination resort” format?  The answer is yes. Continue reading “Casinos: Georgia Is Leaving Significant Money On The Table”

Bills Aimed At Georgia’s Digital Divide

This week’s Courier Herald column:

If you’re reading this column in metro Atlanta, there’s a high likelihood that you’re reading it online. If you’re reading it in South Georgia, there’s a much greater chance that you’re reading it in a print newspaper. That’s partly because the newspapers that syndicate this column are closer to I-16 than they are to I-285, but it’s still emblematic of how those of us in the Metro Atlanta area now get our news.

I subscribe to several newspapers and magazines. I read them almost exclusively online, whether I’m sent a print edition or not. I also have super-fast, reliable broadband that can download not only periodicals, but video at nearly instant speeds. Many of my fellow Georgians in rural areas would consider this an elusive luxury.

This digital divide between urban/suburban areas and rural parts of the state is no longer about luxury however. As the internet has become a backbone of how news, commerce, education, and even medicine is conducted, the lack of readily available, reliable high speed broadband service is all about economic development. Continue reading “Bills Aimed At Georgia’s Digital Divide”

Gaming In Georgia Already A Settled Question

This week’s Courier Herald column:

One of the biggest battles developing in the Georgia General Assembly this year is over the revival of a proposal to bring full scale casino gaming to the Peach State. The measure, which has been revised to bring two “destination resort” casinos, requires a change to the state’s constitution, and thus two thirds each of the Georgia House and Senate.

There are many with religious reservations to allowing this to become the law of the state. The origins of their position should be respected. There are a small handful of ministers in the legislature – and a couple more members that should be. They’re not going to be found in the “yes” column if and when this measure comes to a vote. This is stipulated.

The reality is, however, that the question before the Georgia General Assembly is not a moral one, but one of missed opportunity and diminishing tax revenues. The moral question was answered by voters in November 1992 when a constitutional amendment was passed creating the Georgia Lottery Corporation. Almost 60 Billion has been wagered legally in the state of Georgia since that time, legally. It has all been done through a state sponsored monopoly. Continue reading “Gaming In Georgia Already A Settled Question”