How Can Ports Attract New Business?

Ron Starner, executive vice president of Site Selection Magazine, presented the audience at the annual Inland Rivers, Ports & Terminals (IRPT) conference with an overview on ways ports can attract new business in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 25.

Starner opened his presentation by letting the audience know which three questions ports should be mindful of when undergoing the site selection process for their endeavors. The questions to ask include, “what are site selectors looking for,” “which locations are the most successful at giving site selectors what they want,” and “what do we need to do to get better?”

To help port owners and operators answer some of these questions, Starner proposed a top 10 list of the most critical site selection factors. His list included workforce skills, transportation infrastructure, utilities (cost, reliability), state and local tax scheme, land and building prices and supply, quality of life, workforce development, ease of permits and regulations, incentives and higher education resources.

In addition to outlining questions to ask and factors to consider when ports consider attracting new business, Starner referenced Site Selection Magazine’s “Top Metros by Projects Per Capita, 2017” report, featuring a top 10 list of high-performing regions that were able to successfully attract corporate growth last year.

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These 10 regions are Union City, Tenn./Ky.; Burlington, Iowa/Ill.; Baton Rouge, La.; Dubuque, Iowa; Clinton, Iowa; Natchez, Miss./La.; New Orleans, La.; Dyersburg, Tenn.; Paducah, Ky./Ill.; and St. Cloud, Minn.

As far as Site Selection Magazine’s “Top Metros by Total Projects, 2017,” seven inland cities made the list. These include St. Louis, Mo./Ill., which had 120 projects; Baton Rouge, La., with 78 projects; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn., with 72 projects; New Orleans, La., which had 68 projects; Memphis, Tenn./Miss./Ark., with 52 projects; Davenport/Moline, Iowa/Ill., with 16 projects; and St. Cloud, Minn., with 10 projects.

All the regions outlined above are in the running for The Big Muddy Cup, an award given to the top metro area by corporate facility projects per capita, along the length of the Mississippi River over an 18-month period ending with the previous calendar year.

To round out his presentation, Starner said there are 10 things the “best” inland port cities have in common. First, they have the best-in-class economic development organizations. Additionally, these ports are manufacturing hubs, maintain pro-growth policies, support their primary industries, are developing multimodal facilities, offer creative and custom incentives, are fiscally sound, encourage entrepreneurial development, are hubs for exports and foreign direct investment, and engage in effective marketing.