SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – Business is booming at The Port of Shreveport-Bossier. So much so, they say they're ready to expand. On Monday, they made a million-dollar move to do just that.
There are 16 tenants already leasing most of the 2,500 acre industrial park. Port officials say some of them have expansion projects in the works, and prospects for new tenants are plenty. "It grows every day," according to Port Commission president Jimmy Hall, "We have a ton of prospects, so we need more land to be able to land those prospects. "
Some prospects, like companies operating in the Haynesville Shale, place The Port in a perfect position for growth. "Haynesville's a big opportunity, I think, both from an exploration and production standpoint ," says Ed Bee of Taimerica, a management and consulting firm hired to help prepare a new master plan for The Port. Bee says in addition to plenty of growth opportunities in industries like alternative energy, it's getting more and more cost-effective to expand in the U.S., rather than send the work overseas.
As part of the state's inland port system, The Port of Shreveport-Bossier links the Ark-La-Tex to domestic and international markets by way of the Mississippi river and the Gulf Intra coastal Waterway. From river to rail to the road, accessibility is key.
The final piece of the puzzle may well be the completion of Interstate 49. Bee says there is no doubt The Port has lost out on some big tenants that required convenient access to a major interstate corridor. While there is access to the east, west and south, a major north-south interstate would open the Port up to significant possibilities and bring a competitive advantage. When it's finished, I-49 will run from I-10 in South Louisiana all the way up to Kansas City. Over the past 10-15 years, it's come as far as Shreveport. After years of delays and budget issues, the northern extension to the Arkansas state line is slated for completion in late 2012.
With all indications pointing toward continued opportunities for attracting businesses and new jobs, the Red River Waterway Commission signed over $1 million for land purchases to the Caddo-Bossier Port Commission on Monday. The RRWC is responsible for contributing to the economic development of the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway in Louisiana through the Red River's five ports: Alexandria, Avoyelles, Caddo-Bossier, Natchitoches and Red River Parish. Port Commission President Jimmy Hall calls the "Cooperative Endeavor Agreement" further evidence of the RRWC's dedication to The Port, and recognition of its role in driving the local economy. Four of the Commissioners are from north Louisiana. Two are former Port commissioners.
The money will be used to purchase land to the north and south of The Port, with river access. "That's going to be a vital necessity to The Port to expand its economic development role in the region." The land will be divided up and prepared with utilities, water and roads. "We'll have all of the functional necessities to put a pad down," Hall explains. Allowing new tenants to get settled in quickly is another competitive advantage.
Located about 25 minutes south of Shreveport-Bossier on Highway 1, most people don't see the bustling activity going on at The Port every day, but Ed Bee says they feel the economic impact, "I don't think the rank and file citizen understands what an important role they've played in the economic development of this metro area. "
In less than ten years, The Port has created over 1,000 jobs. It's a trend they believe will continue over the next four decades.