The Ports of Indiana today announced new key initiatives to expand its economic development role. After a year-long strategic plann
ing process involving in-depth research and interviews with industry stakeholders, the organization made the decision to expand its current role and aggressively grow its core business. The Ports of Indiana's new initiatives include spearheading the evaluation of an inland intermodal rail port in Indiana and pursuing increased development financing authority.
Indiana's three-port system serves the world's most productive industrial and agricultural region through a combination of strategic locations, intermodal connections and specialized facilities. The Ports of Indiana is a quasi-governmental organization that operates a statewide system of ports, foreign-trade zones and economic development programs under the authority of the Indiana Port Commission
-- a seven-member bipartisan board appointed by the governor. The state's three public ports are Clark Maritime Center (Jeffersonville) and Southwind Maritime Center (Mount Vernon), both located on the Ohio River, and Burns Harbor in Portage on Lake Michigan.
"Indiana must remain aggressive in its economic development activities," said Lt. Governor Joe Kernan. "Our agencies must adapt to their ever-changing environments, as the Ports of Indiana is doing. These progressive initiatives have great potential to benefit the state of Indiana."
The state of Indiana annually ships 75 million tons of cargo by water each year, which ranks 15th among all U.S. states. Over half of Indiana's border is water, which includes 400 miles of direct access to two major freight transportation arteries -- the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway (via Lake Michigan) and the Inland Waterway System (via the Ohio River).
The mission of the Ports of Indiana is to facilitate economic development in Indiana through logistics facilities and services, maritime industrial and commercial development, development finance tools and strategic public-private partnerships.
"We spent the last year transitioning our primary role as simply an operator of three regionally-oriented ports to a more dynamic system that serves as a catalyst for statewide economic development," said William D. Friedman, executive director of the Ports of Indiana. "While our main focus is to aggressively promote and grow our core business, we have identified new ways to spur economic growth in Indiana that are complementary to our maritime mission. To accomplish this, we plan to pursue a change in statutory authority through legislative channels."
Currently, the Ports of Indiana only offers development financing to only maritime related projects within its facilities. The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority is one example of a port that has expanded its financing authority to non-maritime economic development, such as corporate headquarters and even the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
"Indiana is lagging behind some of our neighboring states that already have this type of development financing authority in place," said Mike Lawson, president and chief executive officer of the Indy Partnership. "This is just the type of weapon our state needs to keep from losing out on future economic development and jobs."
The Ports of Indiana is also evaluating the opportunity of creating an inland rail port in Indiana that would tap into the rapidly increasing flow of intermodal traffic. Intermodal container shipping, which allows for interchange between truck, rail and waterborne transportation
, is the fastest growing segment of the world's freight shipping industry.
"The Ports of Indiana is a natural leader in the creation of an intermodal hub," said Kurt Nagle, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Port Authorities. "It has extensive experience in commercial freight transportation, strong relationships within the supply chain, expertise in property management and development, as well as financing capabilities."
W. Ken Massengill, chairman of the Indiana Port Commission, commented, "There is an enormous opportunity for Indiana to leverage the state's strategic location as the 'crossroads of America' and its extensive freight transportation assets. We have directed our staff to aggressively pursue these initiatives."
Action items the commission approved as a result of the strategic planning process include hosting a freight and logistics symposium later this year; coordinating a VIP trip to Cleveland to see firsthand the results of a successful development financing campaign; and commissioning a feasibility study to identify specific intermodal freight opportunities and direct benefits to the state.
Another outcome of the strategic planning process includes the decision to rebrand the organization as the Ports of Indiana (previously known as the Indiana Port Commission) to raise industry and statewide awareness of Indiana's three-port system.