After 18 years heading the Henderson County Riverport Authority, executive director Greg Pritchett has announced his upcoming retirement.
Pritchett, 64, of Henderson, Ky., said he plans to remain in his post until January. The board of directors hopes to hire his replacement by August and have that person on-site in November to allow a smooth transition.
Pritchett’s relationship with the northwestern Kentucky port on the Ohio River began through a family connection.
His father served as a county magistrate, Henderson County judge and later as a state representative during the time the port was first being developed, so he had visited it several times.
After his father passed away in 2003, Pritchett wanted to move closer to home. At the same time, he learned longtime port director Bill Howard was retiring and that his replacement hadn’t worked out.
At the time, Pritchett had worked for a snack food manufacturer near Louisville, Ky. The company processed and packaged popcorn, and he oversaw many aspects of the small business, from accounting to warehousing and shipping. Because of that, he was very familiar with both the financial end of running a business and procedures concerning exports.
“I’d lived in all those worlds,” he said.
Pritchett started work at the port in June 2004.
Since his tenure began, Pritchett has overseen many changes at the riverport, including adding a second dock and warehouses and rebuilding the dock crane.
New businesses have also come in, including a significant dry bulk fertilizer business and liquid fertilizer tank storage, he said. Additionally, pre-existing customers like Taubenesee Steel & Wire Company, Eastern Alloys and Hydro Aluminum continued enhancing port business in moving aluminum, zinc, steel and other metals.
Currently, Pratt Industries is building a $500 million paper recycling mill and box plant a few miles away, with potential opportunities for riverport involvement. Pritchett also said the port is negotiating with a grain merchandizer for another possible business opportunity.
Besides his work at the port, Pritchett has served other roles within the inland river industry, most significantly, perhaps, as a member of the Transportation Research Board, a division of the National Academy of Sciences. Pritchett served on the Inland Water Transportation Committee from 2010 to about 2017.
Through his work with the committee, Pritchett was able to meet and work with Elizabeth Burhart of Collins Engineers on a research project at the riverport dealing with asset management that was presented internationally at the 2017 PIANC-SMART Rivers Conference in Pittsburgh. Pritchett also engaged with the University of Kentucky Transportation Research Center and continues close ties to the organization.
Additionally, Pritchett is past chairman of the Kentucky Association of Riverports and was instrumental in urging the state of Kentucky to conduct a study of its public riverports that was completed over the past two years.
Pritchett has also worked closely with local economic developers to recruit businesses to the region, which he said is increasingly important to both the port and the region because of the continued decline of coal and related jobs.
Pritchett said even after his retirement, he hopes to stay involved in the industry from an advocacy perspective as well as remaining engaged in economic development at a local level.
“I’m at that point I have that institutional memory that sometimes becomes important,” he said.
Outside of work, Pritchett is very involved in wellness and nutrition. He is a practitioner of jiujitsu and works closely with a local yoga studio, teaching classes at least twice a week and more as needed. Pritchett also runs a blog on wellbeing. He and his wife, Melissa, have been married 33 years and have two adult children.
Brian Wright, executive director of the Owensboro Riverport Authority, also on the Ohio River in Kentucky, said Pritchett will be missed not only at the local but also at the state level.
“Over my nine years of knowing Greg in the industry, he has always been involved with moving Kentucky riverports forward, either through the Kentucky Association of Riverports or the Water Transportation Advisory Board,” he said. “Back in 2019, Greg was instrumental in getting the long-needed Kentucky Riverport Freight Study off the ground and moving at the state level. Greg is a friend across the industry and a close colleague for the all the Kentucky riverports.”
Caption for photo: Greg Pritchett at the Pratt Industries announcement in 2021. (Photo courtesy of Greg Pritchett)