USA: Mississippi River City Mayors Meet in Memphis
Leaders of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), a mayoral-led effort to create a coordinated voice for the Mississippi River, and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) announced several breakthroughs during a first of its kind Mississippi River Economy Summit, which was hosted by MRCTI, the Delta Regional Authority, and the City of Memphis and convened some of the most important River stakeholders.
Mayor AC Wharton, of Memphis, TN and MRCTI co-chair, commented: “What this Economy Summit demonstrates, even in the face of decreasing Federal investment in our infrastructure and a shutdown, is that Mayors are moving forward to protect and grow our economies. The container-on-barge effort is a significant example and a game changer for all of us who live along—and make a living from—the mighty Mississippi.”
DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill said, “The Mississippi River is the lifeblood of the Delta region’s economy. The DRA recognizes the important role the commercial and physical vitality of the River plays in supporting our regional and local economies. Oftentimes innovation and leadership is driven at the local level, and in this case, our mayors are the ones driving the growth of our region to become a player in the global economy by utilizing the assets of the Mississippi River. We are proud to be a part of this partnership with the mayors, ports, and shipping industry.”
According to the Department of Transportation, freight bottlenecks on the River cost the American economy $200 billion annually. During the Summit, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Memphis-based Chism Hardy Investments, Ingram Barge Company, Inland Rivers Ports & Terminals Inc., and the IL Soybean Association pledged to work together toward container shipping on the Mississippi River, which will relieve freight congestion, create economic opportunity for its ports and other intermodal industries, and attract investment in the River infrastructure. This service development will be possible by building on the container shipping that previously ran from Memphis to New Orleans, which the Illinois Soybean Association is seeking to re-establish from within their state’s geography and initiate market-based, commercial operations.
Container-on-barge shipping is a common way to distribute goods in other parts of the world, including Europe and China. The agreements worked out at the Summit are dependent on the U.S. Maritime Administration taking a coordination role.
“All-in-all, what we are talking about here is making it cheaper and easier to conduct business – this creates a global advantage for our private sector. China understands this dynamic, that is why they invest 9 percent of their GDP in infrastructure while the U.S. invests less than 3 percent,” explained Mayor Brown of Natchez, MS.
Another Summit development is the new working relationship being established with the World Trade Center Mississippi River Alliance, comprised of seven world trade centers along the Mississippi River lead by the World Trade Center of New Orleans.
“The relationship we are building with the Alliance will hopefully help better align local investment in River sustainability projects by building investment opportunities between world trade centers and community foundations along the Mississippi River,” said Mayor Dickie Kennemore of Osceola, AR.
Press Release, October 21, 2013