Full speed ahead, to the future

Moderated by Rick Badie

Georgia’s maritime leader says the Port of Savannah is poised to surpass New York as the busiest seaport on the East Coast. Today, our top port executive outlines what’s being done to ensure the port — which is experiencing record-setting growth in container movement — does just that in the coming years. In the other essays, read about a series of regional “Community Conversations” taking place to address the area’s growing older adult population; and society’s challenges of dealing with trash.

Savannah port can pass N.Y.

By Curtis Foltz

Another record-shattering fiscal year for the Georgia Ports Authority recently capped a decade as America’s fastest-growing container port. We shipped more total tonnage, container cargo, vehicles and large machinery, intermodal containers and bulk cargo than ever before. We are more focused than ever to leverage the good fortune of demographics and geography with planning, investment and environmentally sustainable practices.

Georgia is fortunate that our ports are located in the largest demographic area of the country. The Southeast represents about 45 percent of the U.S. population. Economists tell us it will be the fastest-growing region of the country for the next half century. We’re also blessed with good geography. The port is upriver, away from Savannah’s historic district; 100 miles closer to Atlanta than any other port, and served by two on-terminal railroads and highways in close proximity.

But more than population and location are fueling growth at the Port of Savannah. We are poised to nearly double our capacity without expanding our footprint because we’ve planned and invested – even through the Great Recession – and anticipated the opportunity.The Georgia Ports Authority will spend about $1.3 billion over the next 10 years to continue to modernize our ports, expand them to handle more freight and do so in a more sustainable, technologically advanced fashion. The capital we invest will not be state or municipal funding. It will be funds generated by the Georgia Ports Authority (or debt we will issue and service with such revenue). We’ll invest about $100 million a year back into our local communities in capital expenditures.

We will continue to build for future growth. We will expand the number of large ship-to-shore cranes from 22 to 30, for example, and rubber-tire gantry cranes from 116 to 169. As we face unanticipated spikes in volume like we’re experiencing now, we won’t subject our customers to the congestion they experience elsewhere. They consistently turn to Savannah because we handle cargo efficiently and effectively.

Recently, our board approved spending $1 million to make one portion of our land-side terminal more dense – going from four to five storage lanes on the same footprint. That 20 percent gain will be significant. It is the sort of thing we’ve done over and over again to grow without expanding to more land. In the past year, we also invested in 20 new electric cranes that will pay for themselves in six years, reducing our carbon footprint by 96 percent per crane and avoiding the use of millions of gallons of diesel fuel annually. We reduced our energy consumption by nearly 60 percent with new outdoor lighting. And we’ve reduced fuel consumption by 50 percent per container over the past decade.

Our efficiency extends beyond the port’s boundaries, thanks to the connectivity in which Georgia is investing. Gov. Nathan Deal and the General Assembly are funding improved highway connectivity. Transportation infrastructure improvements such as the Jimmy Deloach Parkway Extension will bring I-95 directly into the port, reducing driving time and congestion.

Georgia aims to lead the way in improving our aging national maritime infrastructure. As the gateway to the Southeast and beyond, we are part of a network of East Coast ports including Charleston, Norfolk (serving the Midwest) and New York/New Jersey (serving the Northeast). Anticipating growth of more than 50 percent in the coming decade, we may eclipse the Big Apple before too long to become No. 1 in the East.

Curtis Foltz is executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.

Let’s be a region for all

By Kathryn Lawler

As Atlanta slowly emerges from the recession, the region must stare clear-eyed at a future that will be unlike our past. Far from the world Atlantans experienced 100, 50 or even 15 years ago, life in the 21st century has already been full of changes, longevity being among the most far-reaching.

In 1900, average life expectancy barely hit the high 40s. Today, in some parts of the Atlanta region, average life expectancy reaches into the mid-80s. Not only are we living longer, but the region has one of the fastest-growing older adult populations in the country. Over the next 25 years, the 60-plus population will explode, rising from 9 percent today to more than 20 percent in 2040. The challenge is that our region was built for the young, but to thrive in the 21st century, it must be a region for all.

The Atlanta Regional Commission believes longevity will so profoundly reshape housing, transportation, services and the economy that we must thoughtfully prepare and creatively re-imagine how we live. Redesigning a 50-year-old service delivery system and communities that were built for families with children is imperative, and we have no time to waste. Fortunately, policymakers are beginning to think about these needs in a fundamentally new way.Less than a month ago, ARC was invited to Washington to share the expertise we have developed over the years on how to diversify housing options, re-balance transportation investments, create walkable communities that keep people of all ages healthy and engaged, and offer the supports and services to help residents stay out of hospitals and nursing homes. Our challenge, as we reported to this group of economists, lenders and developers, is that we are not positioned to do any of these things on a regional scale.

As metro Atlanta and the nation recover from a definitive downturn in the economy, we have an opportunity to consider a new direction for our growth, and to reassess our values and desires as we steadily begin to invest again in our future. Unfortunately, scarce resources are another reality of the 21st century. We have to prioritize and strategically invest if we are to stretch limited dollars to meet growing needs. We spend money each day in this region shaping, repairing and maintaining the places we live. Grounded in the day-to-day experience of older Atlantans, we can target these dollars for greater benefit.

ARC, as the Area Agency on Aging, and our partners provide excellent service delivery and a strong commitment to the people we serve. However, creating a community for all is not the work of one agency or organization. It is a complex challenge that requires a common vision and collective action. To begin, ARC is hosting “Community Conversations” to listen to what individuals, organizations and service providers believe are the most important ways to care for older adults and support caregivers. The results will create a road map to guide this region’s investments. Come and lend your voice to the dialogue.

The future will not be like the past. We must invent a different way forward that addresses the new reality of longevity rather than rely on policies of the past that no longer reflect who we are. To find a Community Conversation near you or to join the conversation online, visit www.atlantaregional.com/aging.

Kathryn Lawler is health and aging resources manager for the Atlanta Regional Commission.

What to do about trash?

By David G. Bucknall

What should we do with all of our trash?

There are many societal challenges we face in sustaining and developing civilization. The National Academy of Engineering has broken these challenges down to 14 problem areas. One of these areas concerns the waste accumulating around the world at an alarming rate as populations and cities grow.

Waste is not often thought about by many people. But is out of sight and, therefore, out of mind really going to save the planet from the mess we are making of it? Though humans throughout their history have been discarders of trash, the last few decades have seen society slide into a complacency about waste that manifests itself in a “throwaway society.”

Attitudes toward waste disposal have largely not changed over time: Dig a hole, and fill it. To archaeologists, discarded waste is a mine of information about our ancestors, but modern landfills are far from being delights of historical interest. With a globally growing population, existing landfill sites have filled, and new sites have had to open. In many countries around the world, landfills are uncontrolled; in far too many cities, growing trash heaps are changing not only the landscape by their sheer size, but causing wider international pollution problems.

Atlanta, and Georgia as a whole, are typical of most of the U.S. in our approaches to waste and recycling. Across the country, about 70 percent of all waste ends up in landfills, compared with about 40 percent in Europe. Europeans are not only recycling more than Americans, but implementing better ways to recover energy from waste.

San Francisco is one of the leading cities in the U.S. for recycling; a policy forbids the dumping of recyclable or compostable materials in landfills. That city recycles or composts 80 percent of its waste and is working toward a 2020 zero-waste target. Part of the success in San Francisco has been to educate the public on benefits of recycling to the environment and economy.Based on the San Francisco model, if the U.S. achieves 75 percent recycling, it would create 1.4 million new jobs in recycling industries nationwide. Clearly, there are both environmental and economic reasons for recycling.

In Georgia, improvements are happening. Industries such as Mohawk and Novelis, as well as groups such as the Georgia Recycling Coalition and charities such as One More Generation, lead the way in the education and practice of recycling and waste management. Georgia officials are taking up the challenge, an example being Mayor Kasim Reed’s CARTLANTA recycling campaign.

We should not become complacent; the waste problem is a worldwide challenge. Solutions to the problem will require globally coordinated engineering and education efforts.

David G. Bucknall is an associate professor at Georgia Tech.

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