Seeking to attract more investment and grants, the Port Authority changes course
Aimed at drawing in more investment and federal grant money for infrastructure and expansion, the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority is launching its “Port Forward” initiative.
Kyle Burleson, executive director of the Port of Detroit, said the program will be a distinct change from past years, with an emphasis on developing consistent relationships with business leaders and political representatives at the local, state, and federal levels.
“There was a history of competition in the area as far as who should do what with economic development, and I think with the revitalization of Detroit and Wayne County, and new leadership in all those positions, people realized that there was plenty of work for all of us to do,” he said.
Currently, the Port of Detroit provides about 14,000 jobs and $1.7 billion in income, according to Burleson. The initiative aims to increase the Port’s economic potential and create more jobs.
As with any promise of improving Michigan’s economy, the issue comes back to funding. A major impetus for Port Forward’s creation can be tied to new Congressional grants that have been established specifically for ports, including $293 million of port infrastructure grants and a separate $100 million grant for port security.
To that end, Port Forward is looking to establish a sub-committee system to work alongside DWCPA’s Board of Directors, with members drawn from the business community and government officials.
These sub-committees would be dedicated to areas such as infrastructure, government relations, and new business development in order to better promote strategic initiatives and have a stronger hand when applying for these and other federal grants. Currently, Port Forward expects these sub-committees to be established within the next two weeks.
Patrick Sutka, CFO of Nicholson Terminal & Dock Company, was present during the announcement. Like many other businesses based in Michigan, Nicholson Terminal & Dock Company’s greatest obstacle in expanding comes down to infrastructure.
“Pavement, space, warehouses, relocation of utilities, things like that,” said Sutka. “We have a very capital intensive business and sometimes volumes don’t support the necessary cash flow to reinvest in these very expensive items.”
Two advisory groups were brought on board to help spearhead the initiative: The Bonner Advisory Group located in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Washington, D.C.-based Bill Hanka of Hanka Advisor, LLC, were successful in obtaining a $97.8 million INFRA Transportation Group Grant for rebuilding Mound Road in Macomb County, Michigan in June of 2018.
“The folks who represent the Great Lakes – Senator [Debbie] Stabenow (D-MI,) Senator [Rob] Portman (R-OH,) some of the other leaders on the Great Lakes issues – see that there must be attention paid to the Great Lakes to make sure they have the same economic advantages like the ports do in Baltimore and in Long Beach,” said Hanka.
Port offficials say the Port Forward plan should be completed within a few months.
Featured Image: Detroit Port Authority, Photo by Michigan Municipal League via flickr.com cc 2.0