CORBA Keynote Speakers Discuss Economic Development

More than 60 people attended the Central Ohio River Business Association’s winter meeting February 18, with just over half choosing to meet in-person at BB Riverboats in Newport, Ky. 

Those present used safe social distancing practices and were masked, while the winter membership meeting was also streamed online through the videoconferencing software Zoom. Some of the speakers also gave their presentations over a video screen to those attending in person.

Economic Development In A Port Community

The keynote presentation was on Economic Development in a Port Community.

Brandon Simmons, vice president of project management for Regional Economic Development Initiative Cincinnati (REDI), talked about attracting businesses to the region.

Sign up for Waterway Journal's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest inland marine news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.

“Cincinnati’s location is one of its primary advantages that we can sell,” he said.

REDI can assist companies with site selection, provide subject matter experts knowledgeable about topics such as labor data and market research, and help with obtaining incentives, financing and marketing.

Businesses considering Cincinnati are interested in knowing that by freight tonnage, the region is one of the largest inland ports in the United States, he said. They also want access to the area’s two designated foreign trade zones and multimodal transportation,  both within a day’s drive to more than half the country’s population.

Mark Policinski, CEO of the Ohio Kentucky Indiana (OKI) Regional Council of Governments, focused his remarks on transportation planning.

“Obviously, transportation and economic development go hand in hand,” he said, referencing that the Romans not only built an empire but also roads and caravans of trade.

Throughout history, he said, the most profitable trade routes have been those on water, which is why so many major cities are built along rivers and lakes.

“We look at CORBA as being a water highway alternative to a concrete highway,” he said.

Policinski said that although he is glad to see trucks moving freight through the region because increased trucking means jobs in the area, “CORBA and water commerce provide an alternative for moving those goods around this region.”

He referenced the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky International Airport, with its call letters of CVG, when saying, “I think it’s important to note that this issue of having different modes moving a lot of different goods is going to have a greater impact on this region than most of the United States. That’s because of CVG. CVG is going to be the No. 1 airport in this country because of e-commerce.”

Policinski sees Cincinnati as part of the hub for e-commerce for the nation, and he believes waterborne commerce will play a major role in that.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, he said, almost one of out of every five products was bought online. Seven or eight years ago, it was one out of every 50.

“When you hear about what COVID has done, it’s been estimated that COVID caused the purchase of retail goods online to a percentage not anticipated for about 10 years out,” Policinski said. “So e-commerce is moving more and more out into the world.”

Even transportation technology that at first seems unrelated to the maritime industry is likely to have a role in the port communities of the future, he said. An example he gave is driverless cars. While a few years ago, economists estimated it would be 2050 before driverless vehicles had a meaningful impact on American society, that is now estimated to be by 2030, he said.

“It’s up to you how that fits in,” he said to the maritime professionals at the meeting. “Let’s hope the private sector will really galvanize around this when it comes to maritime commerce, but how about this for a thought? How about a barge that  starts at Pittsburgh on the Ohio and goes onto the Mississippi and down to New Orleans, and that barge never has a crew. It stops at numerous ports along the way, and its goods are offloaded by driverless vehicles, and they’re loaded onto driverless trucks. This technology is going to affect every mode of transportation, and it’s going to be dynamic, and it’s coming along a lot sooner than we think.”

Lee Crume, president and CEO of Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, a publicly and privately funded economic development group, built on Policinski’s comments about e-commerce, saying that e-commerce sales were $602 billion in 2019. By 2025, they are now forecast to increase to $1.5 trillion.

The river is not important for every company considering locating in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region, Crume said. “It’s not every client. It’s one of out of every 30 clients or one out of every 40 clients that needs access to the river, but when they do, it’s not an option. It’s absolutely critical.”

Friend Of The River Awards

The meeting also included the announcement of CORBA’s 2020 Friend of the River Awards, presented to Tim Roddy and Mike Monahan.

Roddy spent his entire 50-year career working on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. He went to work at 18, beginning his career in 1971 as a dock man and working his way up to terminal manager. Over the years, his terminal operations experience included liquid as well as dry cargoes. His experience included operations, administrations and sales, and he gained proficiency negotiating contracts with public and private entities as well as unions.

From 1971 to 2001, Roddy worked for River Transportation, owned by Boswell, before it was sold to Kinder Morgan and now WATCO. From 2001 to 2008, he worked for Noramco. In 2009, Roddy began working for Cincinnati Barge & Rail Terminals. He retired from his full-time duties in January, although he plans to continue working for the company as a consultant until later this year. He has also served the industry as a member of several professional associations, including the National Waterways Conference, World Coal Trade Council, ILTA, Greater Cincinnati Coal Exchange and the Mississippi Valley Trade and Transport Council.

“Tim is one of those guys that everyone in the industry knows, and no one ever had a cross word about,” CORBA President Eric Thomas said, later adding, “If there was a Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Hall of Fame, Tim would certainly be enshrined there.”

CORBA board member Doug Ruschman presented the award to Monahan, with whom he had worked in the past. Monahan retired last year from Campbell Transportation Company Inc., having served as its president beginning in 2011.

“Mike retooled Campbell from a regional operator on the upper Ohio River to a national carrier working across the U.S., having doubled its assets and increased revenues by some 90 percent,” Ruschman said.

Before coming to Campbell Transportation Company, Monahan previously served as a senior vice president for American Commercial Lines. He also spent time for working for McNational, TECO Barge Line and Midland Enterprises.

In 2017, Monahan was appointed to the Inland Waterways Users Board. He has served as vice chair since 2019. Other associations he has served in have included the American Waterways Operators (AWO), the Waterways Council Inc. (WCI), the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) and the River Industry Executive Task Force. He was also one of the people instrumental in founding CORBA, “and for that we owe Mike a tremendous gratitude,” Ruschman said.

Upcoming Events

In upcoming events, Jeremy Edgeworth, freight, rail and waterways coordinator at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Division of Planning, noted KYTC’s second statewide freight summit will be March 22-26, with more details coming soon. The series of three summits is part of the ongoing Kentucky Riverports, Highway and Rail Freight Study. The second summit will include a review of models and market data to help forecasts future trade volumes, he said. It will also include an opportunity for stakeholders, including the Kentucky business and economic development communities, to provide feedback on their needs and the potential impacts of any improvements.

The CORBA annual golf outing is set for 10 a.m. April 12 at Aston Oaks Golf Club in North Bend, Ohio, with a shotgun start. The deadline to register is March 25. The four-person scramble event costs $100 per individual or $400 per team.

CORBA’s regional maritime committee meeting will be March 3 via Zoom videoconferencing. Also, the Ohio River Coalition of Ohio (ORCO) is having its next meeting, also via Zoom, on March 17.