ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia Ports Authority saw a number of records set in the past fiscal year, including a 20 percent increase of automotive and machinery shipments and 26.5 million tons of goods shuttled through the ports.
One of every 12 jobs in Georgia exists because of the tonnage and activity traveling through the two deepwater ports, according to a study of the ports’ economic impact by the University of Georgia Selig Center for Economic Growth. That’s more than 350,000 full- and part-time jobs, including 13,500 in northeast Georgia.
“The ports are still very healthy,” Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz told members of the state General Assembly gathered Monday at UGA for a briefing before the Jan. 14 start of the 2013 legislative session. “It’s a battle every day to bring new jobs and businesses to the state of Georgia.
“We work as closely as we ever have with (Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Chris Cummiskey) and his team to try to attract more manufacturing to the state.”
To continue growth, however, the deepwater ports, which are comparatively shallow, will need to be prepared to handle ships nearly three times the size of what now pass through the soon-to-be-expanded Panama Canal, Foltz said.
The canal ties together Georgia and markets in Asia.
“It is not just the shallowest port in the Southeast or the U.S.,” Foltz said. “It’s the shallowest major port in the world.”
He said efforts to deepen the river and port have been underway since 1996, including impact studies, but efforts from South Carolina have been to stall it. The Port of Charleston competes with the Port of Savannah.
Federal authorities recently approved a dredging project to deepen the Savannah River at the port.