President Barack Obama toured the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal and spoke to a crowd of more than 500 on the importance of growing the nation’s economy through increased exports. He highlighted the 60 percent of the nation’s grain that is exported by ports along the Lower Mississippi River from states, such as his home state of Illinois.
“Corn and wheat from my home state come down the River, ending up here and going all around the world,” President Obama said. “Part of the reason why we’ve been able to increase exports so rapidly, is because we’ve got some of the best natural resources, waterways and facilities in the world.”
“This is one of the busiest port complexes in the entire world,” President Obama told the crowd following a tour of the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal. “You move millions of tons of steel and chemicals and fuel and food every single year. And, in so many ways, this Port is representative of what ports all around the country do: They help to keep our economy going – moving products, moving people, making sure that businesses are working.”
The President toured the container terminal with Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange, Ports America General Manager Keith Palmisano, ILA longshoreman Chris Hammond, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Congressman Cedric Richmond.
During the tour, LaGrange promoted major projects such as deepening the Mississippi River from its current 45-47-foot draft to 50 feet – the same project draft of the new Panama Canal Locks. A recent study by noted economist Dr. Tim Ryan determined a deeper River would create $11.49 billion in US production, generate 17,000 new jobs and mean $849 million in increased income for American workers. Additionally, the study found for every $1 spent on the project, it would generate $89.40 in benefits.
LaGrange also focused on further infrastructure investment needs within the container terminal, such as the completion of its second and third phases. Overall, $523 million is needed to complete the terminal – adding an additional 600,000 TEUs of capacity and bringing the total capacity of the terminal to 1.53 million TEUs annually.