New Bourbon Port expected to stimulate economy of Perry, Ste. Genevieve counties

Thursday, August 27, 2009
John Caldwell, left, with Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Chauncy Buchheit, executive director of the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission, Steve Dodd, with BNSF, and Chris Koehler, with Koehler Engineering, discuss construction over a map of the New Bourbon Regional Port Authority on Wednesday before the groundbreaking ceremony north of St. Mary, Mo. Koehler expects construction on the new harbor to begin by the end of September. (Kit Doyle)

STE. GENEVIEVE, Mo. -- A port nearly 30 years in the making took one step closer to becoming reality with Wednesday's groundbreaking of the New Bourbon Port.

Located on 72 acres 3.5 miles south of Ste. Genevieve, the port will include a harbor and berthing and maintenance area for a ferry that will travel from Modoc, Ill., to Ste. Genevieve. Officials in Perry and Ste. Genevieve counties think the port will stimulate significant expansion of the local economy.

Construction is set to begin in three to four weeks on the $5 million project, though a contractor has not yet been selected.

While construction is expected to take two years to complete, Chauncy Buchheit, executive director of the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission, hopes future projects at the port will include a railroad line and conveyer system to move rock, sand and other aggregate material.

"This will add quite a bit to our area," Buchheit said. "In addition to the jobs created and retained, we're thinking it will keep some of the vehicles off the highway and in doing so will help with air quality issues as well. If you are shipping by truck and have a lot less distance to travel for shipping purposes by using the port instead, it does that much more good for the environment."

Buchheit said he believes that in 10 years the area under development will be "unrecognizable."

Buchheit said the New Bourbon Port could follow a path similar to that of the SEMO Port in Scott City.

Formed in 1975, the SEMO Port unloaded its first barge in 1981. Nine years later its current harbor opened, paving the way for attracting such industries as Consolidated Grain and Barge, Missouri Fibre, Girardeau Stevedores, Midwest Agri-Chemo and SEMO Milling.

SEMO Port executive director Dan Overbey said about 100 jobs directly related to the port were created and another 200 jobs are associated with trucks that go in and out of the port daily.

"A port opens doors for the community," Overbey said. "It lets companies consider your community that might not otherwise have come there. It takes awhile to get it up and going, but once you have it you have something that should be there for 100 years."

Friendly competition

"It took a good while for us, but we believe the same could happen for the New Bourbon Port," Overbey said. "All of us ports have friendly competition, but we help each other more than we compete. If there's a change to get an industry and it doesn't come here, I'd rather it to go the New Madrid or New Bourbon ports than another state."

A study conducted by the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission estimates that 35 jobs directly related to the port would be initially created. About 400 jobs eventually could be created, the commission estimates, with each job paying an annual average salary of $43,664. Additionally, the Missouri Department of Economic Development estimates that each new job generates an additional two secondary jobs in retail, service and other sectors of the local economy.

Perryville, Mo., Mayor Debbie Gahan was raised near the Mississippi River community of Moline, Ill., and said she understands the importance a river plays in an area economy.

"I know how important it is to access the greatest superhighway we have in the Mississippi River," Gahan said. "We have ongoing talks with industries I can't mention at this moment that could benefit from the port, and we're excited for opportunities are before us in the future because of the port."

Albert Fults, presiding commissioner of Ste. Genevieve County, said the cooperation between his county and Perry County will be a key component if industries will grow from the port's establishment.

"This port gives those of us in our two counties to continue to work together for the common goal of furthering our economies," Fults said. "Besides providing an economic boon for this area, it should be a lot of fun to watch."

Perry and Ste. Genevieve counties created the New Bourbon Port Authority in 1982. Throughout the years funding and land for the port were obtained through such sources as the Delta Regional Authority, Ste. Genevieve Sand and Material Inc., Missouri Department of Transportation, Perryville, Ste. Genevieve and Perry and Ste. Genevieve counties.

"This has been a growing effort between so many," said state Rep. Joe Fallert. "Coming down here today I compared this to the movie 'Field of Dreams.' We build it, and they'll come."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

Pertinent address:

Ste. Genevieve, MO

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