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Indiana's ports.

One of the quiet success stories of indiana business during the past decades has been the resurgence of the state's port system. With three ports located on Lake Michigan and the Ohio River, the International Ports of Indiana have become leaders in maritime commerce from America's heartland.

At a time when many port directors natiownwide are wrestling with declining government revenues for infrastructure capital improvements, indiana's three ports--at Burns Harbor on Lake Micihgan and at Jeffersonville and Mount Vernon on the Ohio River--are enjoying a private investment boom perhaps unmatched anywhere in North America.

"We've booked $427 million in new private investment since 1990," says Frank Martin, executive director of the Indiana Port Commission in Indianapolis, the agency that supervises operations and policies for the three state ports. "We're one of the leading ports in the U.S. in new private investments."

Martin adds that the three ports have completed 85 percent of their necessary infrastructure improvements. "The Indiana ports will be unique by the year 2000 in that we'll be operating without governement subsidies."

Indiana's port system frequently labors in obscurity, but the maritime commerce facilities are an integral part in the transporation infrastructure that allows Indiana commodities to get to markets, both domestic and foreign. The ports also play a critical role in providing raw materials for Indiana Manufacturers.

Grain, coal, steel, petroleum, coke, machinery parts, fertilizer, forest products that cross the docks at the three ports. Because of its proximity to the steel industry on the south end of the Great Lakes, Burns Harbor does the lion's share of its business in import and export steel and heavy machinery. Similarly, small grains from Indiana's corn and soybean fields and coal from Southern Indiana and Kentucky are handled at the Clark Maritime Centre in Jeffersonvill and the Southwind Maritime Center in Mount Vernon.

Indiana is blessed with two separate and distinct outlets to foreign export markets. Burns Harbor is on Lake Michigan and handles cargo to and from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system. Clark and Southwind are located on the Ohio River; cargo comes in from ports up the Ohio River and is shipped downriver to the Mississippi River and its great port at New Orleans.

The Indiana ports will handle more than 14 million tons of cargo in 1993, with Burns Harbor in particular enjoying its best year ever. That's largely because of the drop in duties on finished steel products. Steel slabs come into the port, primarily from Europe and South America, and are distributed from the port to area steel mill customer like Bethlehem, Inland Steel, LTV and National Steel.

According to the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, the nearly nine million tons of steel and steel-related products handled by Burns Harbor each year has a direct economic impact of $23 million on surrounding Lake and Porter counties.

In its most recent economic-impact analysis of the port, prepared last year, IU researchers estimate that 52 Indiana counties are directly affected by port-generated cargo. Indiana counties located within 100 miles of the three ports show the most direct benefit, although steel passing through the Clark Maritime Centre at Jeffersonville is destined for automotive manufacturing plants in St. Josephs, Howard and Madison counties.

All told, the 14 million tons of cargo generated at the three ports accounts for some $65 million in direct economic impact to the state of Indiana.

Even more importantly, and a point of personal pride to port staffers, is the fact that the three port are responsible for the creation of more than 2,300 family-wage jobs around the state. Stevedores, longshoremen, truck drivers, railroad workers, warehousemen, steelworkers and the like derive their economic livelihood from the ports. According to the School of Public and Enviromental Affairs, the ports is responsible for the creation of more than 1,400 jobs directly, with another 900 jobs resulting indirectly.

Much of that employment is a result of the ports's strategic-planning effort. With 800 waterfront acres each at Clark and Southwind, and 550 acres at Burns Harbor, the Indiana ports are well-suited for industrial and economic development.

The Indiana Port Commission has encouraged the economic-development advangage by building railroad spurs at each of the three ports, and the state of Indiana is currently in the process of bringing the Interstate 264 loop into the Clark Maritime Centre.

"We've got some of the best intermodal centers in the United States," Martin boasts.

The crown jewel of the port's economic-development efforts is the $100 million Beta Steel mini-mill project at Burns Harbor. Dedicated in the summer of 1990, the 37-acre facility provides jobs for some 200 steelworkers and about 40 longsshoremen. The facility rolls steels slabs into 60-inch hot-rolled sheets for distribution to the nearby mills, where more than 20 percent of the nations's steel is produced.

All told, Burns Harbor accounts for about half of the economic activity registered by the three ports. More than 25 tenants occupy the Lake Michigan porths 550 acres, and only about 100 acres at the port remain available for development.

There's a silver lining in every cloud, and this year's flooding on the upper Mississippi and Missouri rivers has proved to be a boon for Indiana's Ohio River ports.

"We did pick up general cargo and grain," says Donald Snyder, port director of the Southwind Maritime Centre. Located in Posey County near the confluence of the Ohio and Wabash Rivers, Southwind handles the bulk of the coal and grain tonnages shipped through the three Indiana ports.

Tonnages so far this year are up 11 percent over 1992. Through the end of July, Southwind had handled 2.65 million tons of cargo. And inbound barge traffic was running 61 percent ahead of last year by late summer.

"That indicates we did get a fair amount of tonnage" from the flood-ravaged areas to the west, Snyder notes. "And we've had a tremendous amount of inquiries on rates."

If tonnages hold stead through the remainder of the navigation season, Southwind would be on course to break it tonnage record of 4.47 million tons, set in 1989. Snyder points out that since Southwind opened its doors 16 years ago in 1977, the port has handled nearly 45 million tons to cargo.

The port commission's Martin foresees a bright future for the Ohio River ports. By the late 1990s, the federal government will spend $4.5 billion on a much-needed redevelopment plan for the locks and dams on the Ohio River. The new streamlined locking system on the river will reduce transit time from Pittsburgh to St. Louis by some 50 percent, half the eight days it presently takes to cover the distance between the two cities.

"And that directly affects Indiana," Martin says, "because this new superhighway on the water is right on our doorstep."
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Author:Beck, Bill
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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