MVTTC Cancels 2021 Trade Conference
For the first time in its near-40-year history, the Mississippi Valley Trade & Transport Council (MVTTC) has canceled its annual conference. Council Chairman David Ryan, vice president of sales and marketing for Associated Terminals, said it was a difficult decision, but the right one nonetheless.
“The board and I painstakingly labored for months over making this decision,” Ryan said. “I mean, no one wants to be the person that cancels an industry staple that has been a favorite for nearly 40 years. In the end, we had to do what we felt was right, what no one else has done in the 40 years of the MVTTC, even in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and cancel the conference.”
Ryan said MVTTC leaders considered rescheduling the event or even shifting it to a virtual format. Regarding the former, Ryan said there remains too much uncertainty concerning the trajectory of COVID-19. Regarding the latter, he said the board’s reasoning for not holding a virtual event was twofold.
“First, it wasn’t going to provide the experience that our members and delegates have become accustomed to,” he said. “And second, folks are just plain tired of Zoom-type meetings after having sat through endless numbers of them over the past year.”
Still, Ryan said the MVTTC team is eager for the continued rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines and the ability for members of the council to gather together to network and socialize like old times.
“We are hopeful that the current trend of dropping COVID numbers, coupled with the vaccinations being administered on a mass scale, will put us in a place to be able to hold our normal gatherings later in the year, such as the Rock-N-Bowl outing and the Christmas party,” he said. “In the interim, I would encourage everyone to go on over to our newly updated website at www.mvttc.com, look up member companies and just give them a shout to catch up.”
Despite restrictions to MVTTC events, the council remains an active advocate and voice for its members, Ryan said. That advocacy is especially timely now, as companies navigate the continued pandemic, recent hurricane impacts along the Gulf Coast and the policies of the new Biden administration. Ryan said, while members rightly look forward to the conference each year, the organization’s work and reach go far beyond that Carnival season meeting.
“MVTTC advocates for the advancement of transportation on America’s Marine Superhighway through interaction with various congressional leaders and with local, state and federal entities and through backing the implementation of commodity transportation-friendly bills, such as WRRDA, as well as lobbying for the full use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for its intended purpose,” Ryan explained. “These efforts have ramifications for every water-based port in the United States and not just those in the Mississippi Valley corridor.
“MVTTC supports and contributes to disaster relief in maritime communities affected by various natural disasters,” he said. “We recently donated $10,000 to victims of hurricanes Laura, Sally, Delta and Zeta, which relentlessly pounded many folks both in and out of the Mississippi Valley corridor.”
The council also works with colleges and universities to launch and grow transportation-related courses, and provides scholarships for students studying for careers in the maritime industry.
“Yet another perk directly for our member companies, MVTTC provides scholarships for qualifying personnel of MVTTC member companies or immediate family members, regardless of course of study,” Ryan added. “It is also important to mention our reaches into other areas and organizations that have like-minded goals, or coinciding efforts for the betterment of industry, such as our support of the Big River Coalition, involvement with the RiverWorks Discovery program, as well as being a member of IRPT.”
Operationally, Ryan said he’s optimistic about industries tied to the Mississippi River, and the nation’s waterways in general, both in the near term and the longer term.
“Late into 2020 and now on the front end of 2021, business appears to be again gaining momentum,” he said. “Without foresight of what the ramifications will be of the new administration’s pen-wielding first days in office, at least currently, for the moment, the snapshot of the market reveals that many are bullish on the spring fertilizer market; scrap metal prices, along with other steel-related materials, are on the rise; the mineral and ore sectors are starting to pick up; there is renewed interest in exporting carbon products; LNG is on the rise in the European markets; and grain is moving well and projected to continue.”
Ryan also underscored both the significance of the Corps of Engineers and the state of Louisiana partnering to launch the deepening of the Mississippi River to 50 feet and the promise of continued infrastructure funding. The crucial thing will be to maintain that momentum.
“We can only hope that Congress continues to see the value of these projects, particularly those related to inland waterway improvements,” Ryan said. “As we struggle to get beyond COVID and its efects on our personal and professional lives, there is seemingly a light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s just hope we don’t get in our own way, because as everyone knows, ‘the pen can be mightier than the market.’”
Looking Ahead To 2022
MVTTC conference attendees can already mark their calendars for the 2022 installment, which will mark the organization’s 40th annual event. Ryan said the council is using the extra lead time to reimagine the conference to make it as useful, timely and enjoyable as ever.
With Mardi Gras falling on March 1 next year, the MVTTC conference is set for February 24, 2022.