Opinion & Analysis: Ports as an Economic Opportunity for America
Mar 21, 2016
Special to the AJOT, Michael Moore, CEO of Tradepoint AtlanticOpinion & Analysis
Recently, leaders from business and government, including Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez gathered at an event hosted by the White House National Economic Council (NEC) to discuss the promise and opportunity that ports hold not only for keeping America’s goods on the move, but for keeping America’s economy on the upswing.
As the administration and a range of other stakeholders recognize, ports play a key role in helping us meet the demands of a 21st century economy. In order to capture their full economic potential, though, we must map out a vision for the different innovative shipping and logistics models, coupled with the right set of public policies that can power us forward and allow the United States to compete even more strongly on the global playing field. This is made all the more important now that the global shipping industry is being hit by weakened demand from China for commodities.
The economic benefits of ports in the United States are clear. A study from the American Association of Port Authorities showed that ports contributed more than $3.15 trillion to GDP as well as over $2 billion in revenue from federal, state and local taxes in 2007i. That same report found that ports provided 23.1 million direct and indirect jobs that generated nearly $650 billion in annual personal income. Equally of note, jobs created by exports pay 13 to 17 percent higher wages than non-trade jobs in the economy.
Currently, America’s ports and waterways handle more than two billion tons of domestic import/export cargo annually, and the volume of cargo shipped by water is expected to be double in 2020 what it was in 2001ii.
So as we look towards the future, America must make an even stronger commitment to developing its infrastructure and transportation networks to ensure that we can take advantage of this growth. This includes not only developing our ports, but ensuring that railroads and highways are invested in to create a robust, multimodal transportation network that recognizes goods do not move by any one mode of transportation alone. These investments should be thought of as economic multipliers that drive jobs and manufacturing and support our regional and national economies.
The good news is that this investment is happening, and the transportation models of tomorrow are being created today. As one example, Tradepoint Atlantic (TPA), a tri-modal transportation and logistics hub located in Baltimore, Maryland that played host to the NEC event, is working to change the future of commerce and trade in the United States and around the world.
Over the next ten years, we will have over $1billion invested in the site. And while privately funded, we are working hand in hand with local government and business leaders to reach our ultimate goal of being a logistics showpiece for the East Coast and to serve as an ambassador for the city of Baltimore. As just one example, TPA will be adding to the capacity of the port of Baltimore, which is already ranked at the top among all U.S. ports for handling autos and light trucks, farm and construction machinery, imported forest products, imported sugar and imported aluminum. It also transported a record 29.5 million tons of international cargo valued at nearly $53 billion moved across the port’s public marine terminal docks in 2014.
Multimodal transportation networks have the potential to improve our freight mobility, drive jobs, and unlock our national economic competitiveness. The NEC recognizes the importance of promoting global trade and investment as an underpinning for our country’s prosperity, and TPA is glad to do our part.