Port of South Point ready for business

SOUTH POINT, OHIO  — Connecting cargo from the water to roads and rails, the new Port of South Point was officially dedicated Tuesday with a crowd that included state officials and local individuals alike on hand to welcome the facility to the area’s economic resources.

With a moving background across the river at Marathon’s marine division, as well as railroad-whistle reminders from the engines pulling loads of coal along the nearby tracks, the new port’s potential value was not difficult to envision as a string of officials shared a podium near the edge of the elevated port dock.

Carl Darling, chair of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, welcomed the large crowd and pointed out the new port is the only commercial port along a stretch of the Ohio River from a point near Pittsburgh all the way to the Indiana border. Darling recognized officials from the highest ranks of the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard to the most local offices and universities involved in the plan to put a port in South Point, and introduced members of Proctorville VFW Post 6878, who served as the color guard for the day’s ceremony.

LEDC Executive Director Bill Dingus said the day’s excitement was augmented by an announcement that Allegiant Air has added new destinations from nearby Tri-State Airport. Dingus emphasized the team aspect of the Port of South Point project, saying it required “a lot of people working together.” Dingus also pointed out the four-foot thick slab of reinforced concrete he and others stood upon is connected to the bedrock below by massive beams, and is designed to provide a proper foundation for the multi-ton cranes used to transfer materials and cargo from boats to rial or road containers.

ODOT chief of staff Greg Murphy said the port in South Point is “the only public dock in southern Ohio,” and was completed in three phrases with a goal of easier transport of people and cargo between the river, rails and roads. Col. Leon Parrott of the Army Corps of Engineers also spoke briefly, providing a history lesson of the Army’s prolonged involvement with river transportation concerns. South Point Mayor Ron West said the dedication marks a historic point for the region, and Lawrence County Commissioner Les Boggs added his confidence the project will have international implications.

Sen. Bob Peterson welcomed the crowd to “the Key West of Ohio,” noting South Point’s designation as the southern-most point in the state., before he introduced Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. The Lt. Governor said she wanted to apologize if she had seemed distracted while seated on the stage, but explained she was actually fascinated by the activity around here, including river boats and coal cars on the nearby railroad.

“That’s neat. That’s jobs. That’s economic development,” Taylor said, adding the state has witnessed creation of more than a quarter-million jobs since she and Gov. John Kasich took office. “It’s neat to be celebrating what’s so great about the state of Ohio.”

From The Independent Online  | By Tim Preston

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

August 19, 2014