Ohio Port Authorities Look Ahead to 2017 Season

The Port of Cleveland [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]
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Cleveland becomes a cruise destination

With the shipping season beginning, Ohio’s two biggest ports -- Cleveland and Toledo -- are hopeful that an upswing in business late last year will lead to a lucrative 2017, but shipping won’t be the only thing keeping them busy.

2 Great Lakes cruise lines have added the Port of Cleveland to their itinerary this summer.  Each cruise offers a different trip around the Great Lakes, with stops including Chicago, Toronto, Buffalo, and Michigan’s Mackinac Island.  "I think that’s a testament to what people have seen in Cleveland over the last few years now with not only just new buildings, but the new vibe, new restaurants and things to go to – people just want to see it," said the Port of Cleveland's Jade Davis. 

On the Western end of Lake Erie, the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority will continue building up its Great Lakes Dredged Material Center for Innovation.   The center is in its second year of testing sediment from the Maumee River for possible re-use. Joe Cappel is vice president of business development at the Toledo Port.

“We’re getting everything set up so that we can put another 50,000 cubic yards or so into the dredged material center of innovation instead of putting it out into Lake Erie,” said Cappel.

Cappel hopes this year the Port will be able to find agricultural applications for the dredged material, which is made up of silt and clay.

Earlier this year, all of Ohio’s Port Authorities met in Columbus to educate elected officials and state agencies about maritime transportation in the state.  Both Davis and Cappel agree that elected officials don't think of Ohio as a maritime state.  "We’re constantly trying to show the value of our marine transportation system and the economic impact our ports have on the state," said Cappel.

In Lorain, a new executive director looks to increase business

The Lorain Port Authority enters this shipping season with a new executive director.  Thomas Brown, the city’s former Fire Chief, has been on the job for three weeks.

He says he’s got some work to do in this 2017 season after a slow year for steel, one of the port’s main export materials.

“Our tonnages were down last year, mostly due to the fact that both of our steel mills – one is shuttered, the other is cut back considerably,” explained Brown.  “Without steel being manufactured, our tonnages were down and as a port, we have to do some self-assessment and figure out how to get the commodities coming back in our port.”

Brown says local businesses have kept the port busy, shipping materials including stone, salt and cement.  In the last several years, the port has also served in a recreational role -- as a concert venue and site for boat tours.  Brown says about 100,000 people visited the site last year. 

“We’re doing very well on those endeavors,” said Brown. “The water-borne commerce – I definitely want to see our tonnage go back up.”

Aging infrastructure may require a capital plan, but Brown says he looks forward to “getting creative” and using the Port Authority to bring economic development back to Lorain. 

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