The Owensboro Riverport Authority presented an Economic Impact Study from late 2018 at a city commission meeting Tuesday, revealing the organization’s most recent economic impacts on the community, as well as a current business review.
Beginning in 1966, the Port Authority started with an initial investment of $2.9 million from the City of Owensboro and a $4.3 million investment from Kentucky Port and River Development Community and another $2.4 milion with the Economic Development Administration.
“Today, 42 years later, we’ve had almost $29 million in private investment into the port as well as $59 million in riverport investments back into our facility,” said Owensboro Riverport Authority President and CEO Brian Wright. “In addition, we’ve accumulated $1.8 million in grant funds up to the end of 2018.”
Wright revealed that the riverport had the opportunity to give $5 million back to the City for the sake of economic development and maintenance of roads.
Owensboro Riverport Authority currently has 46 full-time employees and could hire two to four more.
“We’re starting to see the relevance of skill-based employees to do the job we need at the Riverport Authority,” Wright said. “This past year we finished at 1.1 million tons, broken down in barge, rail and truck transportation.”
The riverport finished out their 2018 fiscal year with $14.8 million in operating revenue. Over the last three years, Wright said the riverport has held roughly $14 million in revenue each year.
Current projects the riverport is working on include a $3.6 million Solvay bulk storage project, a $1.5 million rail loop inner track project, a $480,000 property acquisition project and a $2 million ORA equipment and infrastructure project.
Wright said the rail track plays into the current and future infrastructure because one of Owensboro Riverport Authority’s partners, Metalsa, will benefit from the project and bring more jobs to the company.
“This project started years ago and thanks to the City, as well as Senator Joe Bowen, as well as the Economic Development group for supporting this initiative for Matalsa to grow 113 jobs,” Wright said. “As a result, the riverport has a six-year agreement for shipping roughly 100,000 frames per year up north, utilizing new track that will be open sometime mid-May or so.”
As for future economic development, Owensboro Riverport Authority secured an $11.5 million federal BUILD grant in December 2018, with the purpose of improving access to the riverport from Second Street to the riverport property. After many years of trying, the project finally made it to the six-year road plan.
“Due to the joint efforts of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Cabinet for Economic Development, and our portion of this grant, we will see this road come to fruition over the next few years,” Wright said. “This is an example of the riverport playing a key role in our City’s economic development.”
Casey Bolton with Lexington-based Commonwealth Economics Partners, LLC spoke about the Riverport Authority’s economic impact across the region, explaining that the riverport has led to a number of significant impacts, ranging from operational and industry impact to capital investment. In 2018, the riverport generated $16.1 million in output, $8.6 million in labor income, supporting 197 jobs throughout the region.
“That’s just what they do day-to-day operational, and not including all the jobs they touch throughout the city,” Bolton said.
The riverport invested $46 million in construction projects in the local area between 2013 and 2018, contributing to $67.7 million in economic impact, including employment for 590 people and $20.3 million in total wages dedicated to construction projects.
Bolton said they looked at all the different businesses in the regional area that had been impacted by the riverport, and concluded that, in 2016, the riverport contributed to $10.7 billion in output, 57,898 jobs and $2.6 billion in labor income, all within Daviess County.
“These are related to industries that use the port’s services,” Bolton said. “What would Owensboro and the rest of the GRADD area look like without the riverport? Well, it would look a lot different.”