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Logistics drives area economy

Page Siplon of the Georgia Centers of Innovation for Logistics explains a powerpoint presentation on the transitive nature of the economy to the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission Wednesday.

Page Siplon of the Georgia Centers of Innovation for Logistics explains a powerpoint presentation on the transitive nature of the economy to the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission Wednesday.

ALBANY -- Page Siplon isn't interested in why the chicken crossed the road.

Just how.

Page is one member of a crew of specialists working for the state who are focused on the science of logistics and how Georgia can use it to grow jobs and its economy.

Assigned to the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics in Savannah, Siplon and his colleagues analyze trade routes, infrastructure and how trucks, trains and airplanes improve the everyday quality of life for Georgians.

Wednesday, Siplon spoke to the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Authority -- whose job is the creation of jobs -- about how logistics impacts Southwest Georgia.

Key to his discussion was the port of Savannah, which has grown annually in terms of imports/exports at 11.5 percent per year; significantly faster than every other port in the United States.

"We have long surpassed being the dominant east coast port, we are now the dominant U.S. port," Siplon said.

Containers that come into the Port of Savannah account for 44 percent of all cargo that is delivered East of Chicago, he said. And that number will only grow as the Panama Canal is widened and the Savannah port deepened.

With the increase in port traffic comes an increase in the amount of cargo that is transported through Georgia and, hopefully, to new and existing Georgia businesses.

Locally that's good news for Albany, which stands to benefit from the development of an inland port being built in Cordele.

According to the latest data available, more than 11,000 jobs in Albany and Dougherty County exist directly because of logistics-based industries, with sales related to those jobs of more than $5.7 billion, Siplon said.

To support the growing cargo loads, Siplon said that local governments have a bigger responsibility than ever to keep their infrastructure updated and expanded -- something the state has fallen behind on.

"We're the second lowest state per capita in investing in infrastructure. We've kind of rested on our laurels," Siplon said. "So we've got to put more money into our roads and infrastructure if we want to support the kind of growth that we're expecting."

Siplon said that an upcoming referendum on a new one-percent sales tax was important to funding transportation projects and not falling behind the curve on infrastructure.

"We need T-SPLOST," Siplon said. "If we want more business and more cargo for our state, and more cargo to come out of Savannah, then we need to have a means to fund our infrastructure. Plan A is the gas tax, which hasn't worked. Plan B is the T-SPLOST. There is no plan C."