Officials: Inland port brings benefits

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

ALBANY, Ga. -- Officials with the company that is spearheading Cordele's inland port initiative say there is significant potential for Southwest Georgia to benefit as real estate at the Port of Savannah becomes more scarce.

Cordele Intermodal Services has purchased more than 1,100 acres of land near the convergence of the Heart of Georgia Rail line, the CSX Rail line, U.S. Highway 280 and Interstate 75 and has spent the last year building it out to become an intermodal service center.

The center is poised to become an inland port for the Port of Savannah by directing and storing containers bound for Savannah from Southwest Georgia, Alabama, the Florida panhandle and Mississippi.

Speaking to the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission Wednesday, CIS President Jonathan LaFevers and CFO Brad LaFevers told board members that the push for greener and less congestive modes of transport than trucking is leading to a boon for those in the rail industry and, with the Port of Savannah on the brink of a major harbor-deepening operation, business is more likely to pick up.

"Cordele will clearly be the epicenter of this movement, but we'll have major regional impact," Brad LaFevers said. "When businesses look at Georgia, they don't have to look just at Savannah or Atlanta anymore to locate for importing or exporting. ... They can locate right here in Southwest Georgia and have the same benefits."

Jonathan LaFevers said his company's goal is to improve shipping and freight operations from Southwest Georgia, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida by providing a direct access point to the port without all of the congestion issues that shippers currently face.

Within the next few weeks, CIS will begin accepting 6,000 containers of freight and hope to be comfortably moving 230,000 containers per year.

And the LaFevers say that Albany is poised to be one of the beneficiaries of the operation, thanks to its existing infrastructure and Georgia Highway 300, which they said is a "strong, accessible route" to Cordele.

"With Albany's proximity to Cordele via 300 and other major highways like (Georgia) 133, there is the potential for large distribution or warehouse projects here," Jonathan LaFevers said. "Having 300 makes it a very appealing spot."

The biggest challenges to the operation, according to the LaFevers, is overcoming the NIMBY mentality -- Not In My Back Yard.

"People generally like the idea, but as long as it's not near them," Jonathan LaFevers said. "The same thing happened in Cordele. But once local officials got behind the initiative and sold it with the public, people began to see the possibilities."