With the tonnage of cargo shipped across the U.S. expected to grow dramatically over the next 20 years, the U.S. Department of Transportation is projecting a shortage of space along the nation's roadways, but that won't be an issue for Owensboro.
The western Kentucky area is lucky enough to be located on the Ohio River, and its port authority owns 1.5 miles of on-site railroad tracks.
“USDOT officials say companies need to start looking at alternative ways of transporting goods besides trucking, so there is growing support of port communities like ours that offer river and rail,” says Brian Wright, president and CEO of the Owensboro Riverport Authority. “Bottom line is that we are on the Ohio River, a main CSX line runs through our port and trucks have easy access to a nearby U.S. Highway 60 bypass.”
Wright says about 35 percent of the port's current business originates from the aluminum industry, with aluminum hauled to Owensboro by barge from New Orleans as well as by railcars from many other parts of the country. Complimenting the port's river and rail location for aluminum producers is its designation by the London Metal Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as a good delivery site.
“Once aluminum arrives here, it is trucked to many aluminum consumers within 150 miles of us in all directions,” Wright says. “The aluminum sector will continue to grow because regional aluminum manufacturing plants have announced upgrades and additions to their facilities to support the automotive initiative to incorporate more aluminum into the production of their vehicles."
Other major parts of the port's business come from inbound fertilizer shipments and outbound grain shipments, mostly consisting of corn and soybeans.
"Due to other commodities stored on site, we operate as a Homeland Security port – a designation that requires 24/7 security," Wright says. "This gives all our customers comfort in knowing we are such a safe and secure site.”
Another asset of the port is its distribution capabilities, with 500,000 square feet of space available for warehousing facilities.
“We are growing," Wright says. "For example, Solvay Chemicals will open a $24 million facility here in late 2015 to store and process sodium bicarbonate railed in from Wyoming. We are expanding our rail across the port and recently purchased a new Mobile Harbor Crane capable of lifting everything from standard cargo to containers. We are also in discussions with CSX to initiate more shipping opportunities, and we're looking to expand our truck entry and exit road from its current two lanes to three lanes in order to better access U.S. Bypass 60. "Our mission is to provide a dynamic, efficient, customer-oriented and market-focused intermodal facility that contributes to commerce and economic growth for Owensboro and the region," Wright continues. "We will continue to forge forward with this mission at hand to ensure our community can take full advantage of every economic development opportunity."
Highway, Air Access
In addition to the bypass, Owensboro's highway system includes U.S. Highway 231, and progress continues with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to develop a spur that would connect Owensboro with I-69. That connection would link the area to I-64 in Indiana and I-65 in Kentucky and thereby strengthen commerce and the potential of Owensboro's location within 600 driving miles of two-thirds of the U.S. population. For air travel, Owensboro offers convenient driving access to the UPS Worldport in Louisville, international airports in Nashville and Louisville and Evansville Regional Airport in Indiana. Immediately serving the region is Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport, which has expanded its runway to 8,000 feet to land planes as large as 757s. “
We have three Cape Air flights daily to St. Louis that can connect local passengers with 60 destinations throughout the U.S.,” says Bob Whitmer, director of Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport. “Also, Allegiant Airlines has service to and from Orlando from here.”
The airport oversees 44,000 arrivals and departures each year from general aviation, commercial and military aircraft, and it recently expanded its terminal and upgraded its instrument landing system. It also houses a $14 million on-site Kentucky National Guard Readiness Center for the 206th Engineer Battalion. “We also feature an X-Cell Aviation flight training center,” Whitmer says. “Our airport provides a major service to the entire Greater Owensboro region.”