ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Inland and Gulf Coast ports in Mississippi pumped more than $6.2 billion into the state’s economy in 2009, producing 46,000 jobs and a payroll worth more than $1.8 billion, according to statistics released yesterday at a news conference held in conjunction with the Spring Meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO.)
Standing at the Port of Natchez overlooking the Mississippi River, AASHTO president Larry L. “Butch” Brown, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, said, “Through the port, up and down the Mississippi and through its important rail and road connections, goods are moving to and from Europe, Africa, Latin America, Canada, Asia and points around the U.S. The result is business for Mississippi companies; jobs and income for Mississippi workers; and tax revenues for Mississippi governments.”
But Brown said that unless the transportation system gets a tune-up, this revenue might be lost. “The simple fact is: No transportation, no economy. They are inseparable. And right now our ‘transconomy’ is limping badly. We must invest to maintain and strengthen the American transconomy.”
Brown is hosting transportation officials from across the country this week in Natchez for the AASHTO Spring Meeting. A primary goal of the five-day conference will be to focus on the next multiyear highway and transit authorization bill, climate change, and new approaches to working in tough budget times, among other issues. The current extension of the existing authority for highway and transit programs ends Dec. 31.
“We need a new, comprehensive multiyear, authorization bill that gives state and local governments the level of investment needed to maintain and modernize all transportation modes,” said Susan Martinovich, AASHTO vice president and director of Nevada’s Department of Transportation, during the news conference. “We may not have a port in my state, but our ability to move freight is critical. We have warehousing and distribution hubs in both Reno and Las Vegas that need to function efficiently or our nation’s supply chain grinds to a halt.”
Joining the AASHTO officials was Natchez Port Director Anthony Hauer, who said that his port puts $50,000 a month into the local economy.
Brown said, “We’ve got an important message to deliver to Congress and the American people. Transportation equals jobs and economic growth.”