Ports & Terminals

Formal Labor Pact Marks Anniversary Of Cairo Port Announcement

Construction on the Alexander-Cairo Port in Cairo, Ill., took another step forward with the signing of a project labor agreement August 5.

“We’re going through all the engineering design work as we speak because anyone in the construction trades realizes you have to have a floor plan before you start constructing anything,” said Larry Klein, chairman of the port district. “Once we get the floor plan, that’s when we’re going to put all the people here to work, and that will tickle me to death.”

Although project leaders announced reaching a project labor agreement April 27 with the Illinois AFL-CIO guaranteeing at least 500 union jobs building it, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker returned to the region for the formal signing, which included representatives from various construction trades. As part of the signing, he held a news conference at Fort Defiance State Park.

“I honestly think this project is one that’s for the books,” Pritzker said. “I hope you all feel like today is the beginning or at least the continuation of a project that will make an enormous difference for everyone who lives here.”

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Pritzker explained the importance of the labor agreement in his remarks.

“What we are celebrating here today will mean that right here in Cairo and across southern Illinois, more than 500 Illinois workers and their families will have access to game-changing new opportunity. To all the men and women of labor who will be out here literally building the future of southern Illinois, thank you, thank you, thank you. Our state has a history of national leadership in transportation distribution and logistics infrastructure because of a generation of tradespeople who came before and will expand our TDL leadership because of all of you.”

Pritzker said the port will stand as an example of what the state is able to accomplish.

“When this project is complete, hundreds of millions of dollars from the public and private sectors will have been invested right here, and the barge traffic that comes through here every day will make Cairo a state-of-the-art port and cargo hub for the entire nation,” he said. “And we will work to build back America’s infrastructure. Cairo’s riverport will stand as a shining example of Illinois’ leadership: good jobs, multigenerational investments in economic growth and community revitalization. This port will be a beacon, a beacon for progress for southern Illinois and for our entire state of Illinois.”

State Sen. Dale Fowler, who represents the southern Illinois region, including Cairo, talked about the difference the project will make in the region and thanked partners in Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee who have supported it.

“We’re seeing investment coming back,” he said. “We’re seeing property being sold to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.”

Tate Wright of the Egyptian Building and Construction Trades Council called the port a world-class project.

“We could not be more excited for the future of this project, connecting these waterways, transforming the way shipping is done in the United States, and it’s all going to be done with unionized labor,” he said.

Pritzker announced the funding of the port project in August 2020. The state’s Rebuild Illinois capital plan is providing $40 million in funding for construction of the port. The port district is securing additional private investment and structuring the port as a public-private partnership, according to a news release from the port’s public relations firm announcing the labor agreement.

“Major logistics and commodities businesses have already committed to using the new port to move crops, container shipments and bulk products once it is completed,” the port said in the labor agreement announcement. 

American Patriot Holdings announced in September that it is among those partners, with the port district signing a memorandum of understanding to provide intermodal container-handling services for American Patriot Container Transport’s next-generation container shipping vessels, which will run on liquefied natural gas.