• Turning a Waterway into an Economic Lifeline

    Connecting the Port of Mobile to the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio rivers, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway is more than a modern engineering wonder. It is a lifeline of economic opportunity for the South, as companies that make their living off the region’s natural resources invest at a record pace along this man-made marvel.

    Completed in 1984, just one month after President Ronald Reagan’s re-election, the US$2-billion waterway project included 10 locks and dams, a 175-foot-deep (53.1-meter-deep) canal connecting the Tennessee River with the Tombigbee River watershed, and 234 miles (377 km.) of navigation channels.

    Today, the waterway is considered one of the most energy-efficient trade routes in North America. It connects 18 states and 14 river systems totaling some 4,500 miles (7,242 km.) of navigable waterways serving a large swath of southern and middle America.

    The payback for this massive public works project that was 12 years in the making is now coming in droves, says Mike Tagert, administrator for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority in Columbus, Miss.

    “The past five years have seen probably as much direct total investment along the Tenn-Tom as in all the years previously,” says Tagert, noting that steel industry investment along the Tenn-Tom has totaled more than $5 billion since 2003. “Severstal Columbus alone has invested a total of $1.3 billion in its steel plant, bringing 450 jobs, the majority paying over $70,000 per year. That’s a tremendous impact in a region like this.”

    The Columbus mini-mill opened in 2007 on 1,400 acres (567 hectares). The company’s phase-two expansion, now underway, will upgrade the Mississippi plant from 1.7 million tons (1.6 million metric tons) to 3.4 million tons (3.1 million metric tons) per year. Severstal can ship products directly from the plant by rail, road or barge.

    Multi-modal access to multiple trade and supply routes is the primary selling point of the waterway to industrial end-users, says Tagert. “It is a critical link. Without the Tenn-Tom, you would not have the link between the Gulf of Mexico ports and the inland waterways of the Ohio, Mississippi and Tennessee rivers,” he says. “We are directly linked to the Port of Mobile. As the Port of Mobile goes, so goes the Tenn-Tom Waterway.”

    For the full article please visit:

    http://www.siteselection.com/ssinsider/pwatch/economic-lifeline.htm

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