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Submitted By NEMO RPC
MEMPHIS, MO — 5/27/2022 – The role of inland river ports as transportation hubs that facilitate the import of goods for local consumers and the export of products to world markets has never been more significant. As the nation faces supply chain challenges and the region seeks to continue to invest in economic development, Northeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission has partnered with federal and state agencies in an effort to determine the feasibility of a potential Mississippi River port in Clark County.
On April 26, 2022 NEMO RPC entered an agreement with Decision Innovation Solutions (DIS) of Urbandale, Iowa to complete a strategic planning and market study to establish viability or lack of viability for a potential port facility on the Mississippi River in Clark County. This product will help determine site selection and involve master planning of the port capacity and intermodal-connectivity as well as stakeholder development as part of a market survey and review.
“The proposed feasibility study will fuel strategic planning through the analysis of the project’s relevant factors – predominantly viability of port site locations combined with the measurable demand for services such a facility would offer,” said NEMO RPC executive director Derek Weber.
The project is being funded in part through a $217,305 grant from the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority that was secured by NEMO RPC in partnership with the Clark County Commission. A grant from the Economic Development Administration to NEMO RPC is also helping fund the project.
Weber noted that the project has been under consideration for several years, dating back to conversations between the Clark County Commission and private business entities regarding the development of a port site for offloading agricultural inputs needed by farmers to produce their crops. Weber praised the work done by the Clark County Commission to investigate this economic development opportunity for their community and the entire region which has helped lead to this point.
With an increase in federal funding available to assist in port development, such as the $450 million annually available in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the Port Development Infrastructure Program (PIDP), Weber said now is the time for the region to consider all of its options for securing investments in its transportation infrastructure that can lead to further economic development.
Decision Innovation Solutions is partnering with Bujanda & Allen Infrastructure and economic advisors; as well as MECO Engineering Co., Inc., to perform the study, which is expected to be completed by year end.
“Most, if not all, greenfield projects involve an inherent level of uncertainty that require the identification and mitigation of potential project risks such as unknown project cargo prospects or volumes, uncertainty in micro- and macro-economic variables”, said Spencer Parkinson, President, CEO, and founding member of Decision Innovation Solutions, LLC. “To better understand the viability of this project, it is critical for NEMO RPC and project stakeholders to have an analytical framework that allows them to quantify potential levels of demand and their relationship with the potential financial viability that could realistically be attracted by the project.”
Central to the planning process, will be determination of a viable location for a port facility in Clark County, considering river, rail and highway transportation access to make the site fully multimodal. Real estate considerations must also take into consideration availability of property for future industrial development as well as access to all necessary utility services and right of way access for road and other infrastructure needs.
The study will analyze market factors impacting the potential usage of an inland port facility in Clark County, in order to demonstrate the business case for the viability of a port. Any means of potential port usage for outbound and/or inbound shipments of raw materials, agricultural or manufacturing products, or commodities, will be investigated. In addition to identifying the existing companies, industries, and supply chains that will benefit from a proposed inland port in this vicinity, the study will survey and determine how these companies currently are transporting goods and raw materials from markets to suppliers; the current and potential volume and weight of commodities, products, and/or raw materials shipped and/or received; and markets where the commodities, products, and/or raw materials get shipped to.
The survey will also seek to identify transportation obstacles currently faced by potential port users in getting products to market or in receiving raw materials while also identifying what form (bulk, containerized, dry, liquid, etc.) products are received and shipped in; and what current costs are for transporting these goods.
Identification of the surrounding network of freight/materials movement will be performed during this phase to determine the available highways, marine highways, railroads, and public/ private docking facilities within 100 miles of the proposed site. In this process, current transportation providers will be determined and feasibility will be considered based on existing transportation costs, capacity and stability. Impact of existing facilities as well as potential expansion and growth of potential competitors will be considered.
These findings will help generate the financial blueprint for the project, which will include evaluations of projected revenues and incomes generated by the port and costs for the development of the facility as well as anticipated expenditures related to its maintenance and overhead. The cost analysis will include port and dock facility construction, equipment purchases, and property acquisition as well as engineering, licensing and permitting and staffing projections.
“Interest from companies that supply ag inputs for local producers, helped fuel the need to consider such a proposal, but the exporting of the crops those inputs help produce may be what pushes such a concept closer to the finish line of becoming a reality,” said NEMO RPC Transportation Planner Chris Feeney.
Feeney, who authored the MASBDA grant application, is serving as the project manager for NEMO RPC. He pointed to the August 2019 USDA Report by Agribusiness Consulting entitled Importance of Inland Waterways to U.S Agriculture to highlight the impact such a project could have on the region if it came to fruition. The report estimates that due to its efficiencies and lower costs, the inland waterways system saves between $7 billion and $9 billion annually over the cost of shipping by other modes. The report noted that in 2016, Missouri corn produced for exports via inland waterways directly contributed $95 million in economic output; 703 Jobs; and $7 Million in GDP. When expanded to include the companies operating in the supply chain and the impacts of their wages, the total economic contribution for those same 2016 corn totals were $171 million in output; 1,267 jobs; and 450 million in GDP. The same report indicated an impact five to ten times higher for economic output and jobs creation for Missouri soybeans produced to export via inland waterways in 2016. The report forecasts in 10 years, by 2029, “volume growth of farm products transiting the inland waterways system would be 25 percent, and the related economic impact would be over 312,000 jobs created and $37.2 billion added to GDP”.
“This bullish outlook is why this study is so important, as a significant portion of the need for this project is to better be able to precisely answer the question what local economic impact would result from a Mississippi River port in Clark County,” said Feeney.
If such economic impact proves the feasibility of such a potential port location, the study could prove to be the springboard for securing additional state and federal aid to turn the concept into a reality.