Project Port: A Long Time Coming

Jefferson City has wanted a way to take advantage of our location on the river for a long time and there is a need for multimodal transportation options for our existing businesses and potential new projects. This idea of a Missouri River port has been discussed for decades in our community, but the idea was finally formally developed by the Chamber in 2008. In 2015, the project redeveloped from a renewed interest in river freight and more congestion on the highways. A working group was established to move “Project Port” forward.

So, what’s the latest with the Port?

The summer of 2018 was a busy one. After completing a feasibility study last spring that verified the economic viability of a port in the mid-Missouri region, the Chamber spent many hours working to prepare an application to the Missouri Department of Transportation to establish a regional port authority. This was a lengthy and involved process that included getting contractual agreements approved by all governing bodies, the creation of bylaws, public hearing and a detailed port application. The Chamber worked very closely with our economic development partners from Jefferson City and Cole County, and since we were applying to be a regional port authority, Callaway County.

On September 6, the proposed Heartland Port Authority of Central Missouri was formally approved by the MoDOT Commission to create a formal public port authority for Cole and Callaway counties.

What’s to come?

The most recent action has been the securing and announcing the Heartland Port Authority Board of Commissioners and the Chamber is proud to say that the board includes all levels and area of expertise. The Heartland Port Authority Board of Commissioners were appointed by the three jurisdictional entities. Per the initial bylaws, three members were selected each from Jefferson City, Cole County, and Callaway County.

The first Board Meeting was held on November 26, 2018 and has subsequently been holding monthly meetings. The Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce is serving as the managing entity during the startup period.

One of the major tasks is to develop a list of private sector partners who may want to participate in the on-site operation of the port, or as users of the port who wish to have a permanent on-site facility.

To help with that effort, the Heartland Port Authority applied for and was awarded an $187,000 grant in June. The Heartland Port will contract with Decision Innovation Solutions to conduct a Missouri Port Development Study and Business Development Plan that will help inform and provide direction in determining the extent to which agricultural products could be enhanced by the operation of a Missouri Port. Additionally, the study will yield a Business Development Plan that will assist in the marketing of Missouri river ports in general and specifically a full-service port in Central Missouri.

The Chamber, along with our other economic development partners, will work with state and regional economic development agencies to develop a targeted plan to attract businesses that would benefit by the shared access to facilities a port would provide. Shared services could include those provided by shippers, shipping agents, brokers and packing companies, as well as those related to support activities. Asset sharing would allow companies within the port district to obtain economies of scale and position the port to compete for customers, tenants and trade. Top commodities could include gravel, non-metal mineral products, cereal grains, coal, fertilizers, basic chemicals, animal feed, and other foodstuffs or products.

It has been a lot of work to get “Project Port” to where we are today, and there is still have a lot of work ahead of us. This long-term project will require many resources, including financial and time, but the goal is to have the Port operational within 5 years.

The Heartland Port Authority

Board of Commissioners

Callaway County

Roger Fischer, Callaway County Western District Commissioner, 3-year term

Hank Stratman, MG (Retired), US Army, 2-year term

Doug Mertens, Con-Agg Companies, 1-year term

Cole County

Kris Scheperle, Cole County Western District Commissioner, 3-year term

Calvin Broughton, Retired, Military, 2-year term

Gary Wheeler, Missouri Soybean Association, 1-year term

Jefferson City

Rick Mihalevech, Jefferson City Councilman, 3-year term

Jim Jordan, Real Estate Developer/Consultant, 2-year term

Roger Schwartze, Retired, MoDOT District Engineer, 1-year term