Coming and Going: What they do at the ports

By Tim Guidera - bio | email

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) – The same way its activity and the impact must be seen to be appreciated, the true scope of the Georgia ports cannot be judged from a distance.

"It's a large facility,'' said Georgia Port Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz. "It's a major facility.''

Behind the gates of America's fourth largest and fastest growing port is a city unto itself, 1,200 hundred acres of roads and docks, railways and warehouses and two miles of continuous waterfront generating constant motion.

It is consumer products coming in from around the world.

"Anything you would find on the shelves of a Home Depot or a Lowe's or a Target or a WalMart, kind of on and on and on,'' said Foltz, "are goods that are imported through our ports.''

It's also regional commodities being shipped to as many distant and varied destinations from one of the nation's only export-dominant ports.

"So,'' said Foltz, "whether it's kaolin clay coming from central Georgia, forest products throughout Georgia, poultry from north Georgia, cotton out of Tennessee, chemicals, we export a tremendous amount of product through our port.''

And like that cargo, the impact of the business on the Savannah River flows in more than one direction.

In 2010, 2.8 million TEUs, the standard unit of measure equivalent to a 20-foot steel container, were carried into Garden City Terminal. Equally striking is what came into the community around Georgia's ports as a result of all that activity.

"The port is an amazing economic generator,'' said Bill Hubbard, president of the Greater Savannah Chamber of Commerce. "First of all, you count on jobs, the thousands and thousands of jobs. Certainly their marketplace is much bigger than Savannah, but Savannah's their home and they're very much a participant.''

But the port's impact is not restricted by borders.

"It touches everybody's lives, whether you consume anything, which we all do, or whether you produce goods throughout the state,'' said Foltz. "The trucks don't stop delivering goods at the state, the continue to go. So this is a great economic engine.''

And it creates a workforce far greater in numbers the 1,000 Georgia Port Authority Employees, even more international longshoremen and shipping line crews working inside.

"There are some 300,000 jobs directly impacted by the work that goes on here every single day,'' U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss said during a recent visit to the ports.

He was talking about farmers and manufacturers and drivers of the 2,300 trucks that enter the gates daily whose livelihood flows through the Garden City terminal along with the containers.

"Certainly we're all aware of the fact that this port contributes in a very vital way as an economic engine to our state and throughout the Southeast,'' said Chambliss. "Not only is the southeastern part of the United States becoming the destination of choice for the majority of Americans, but it is also becoming a destination of choice for the manufacturing sector, the high tech sector, certainly the agricultural sector.''

All of which and more find their way into process and pride at the Georgia ports.

"It is still something that gets into your blood,'' said Foltz. "And more than anything I'm extremely proud every day I come out here and see what this organization, what this state with the state support has really developed.''

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