Seaport News

Moderated by Rick Badie

Chalk up another record year for the Georgia Ports Authority. The total volume of goods handled by the ports increased nearly 8 percent from last year and there was a double-digit increase in the number of container units handled at the Port of Savannah. An executive says to expect more businesses to utilize our seaports and notes steps that have been, or will be, taken to make that a reality. Elsewhere, we touch on two other topics — how to answer the demand for a skilled manufacturing workforce and proposed changes in patent protection laws.

Georgia ports set record, eye future

By Curtis Foltz

Just last week, the Georgia Ports Authority announced that it moved more shipping containers in its recently concluded fiscal year than ever before. The port of Savannah marked a 17 percent increase in 20-foot equivalent container units (520,000 additional units) and the Authority as a whole experienced a 7.8 percent increase in total tonnage.

With the continued demographic growth of Atlanta and the Southeast, our ports are, increasingly, ports of choice for global importers and exporters. American businesses, shipping products to and from destinations across the globe, have chosen Georgia’s ports as a gateway to their supply chain.

Port of Savannah’s single-terminal design means shippers enjoy fast turn-times through one simple check-in process and have access to more available on-terminal infrastructure to handle larger vessels and volumes. Served by two Class 1 railroads (CSX and Norfolk Southern), Savannah has reliable, efficient westward transit in the South Atlantic region – including overnight rail service to Atlanta, Charlotte, Jacksonville and Birmingham, two-day service to Memphis and Nashville, and three-day service to Chicago, Cincinnati and Dallas.

As the Southeast continues to grow, the Panama Canal is deepened, and Savannah’s deepening progresses forward, we can anticipate more and more cargo to shift east. The urgent need shippers from Asia had to divert cargo to Savannah in the most recent fiscal year gave us opportunity to show we could handle additional volumes efficiently. Longer term, it is simply better for business and the environment to reach the booming Southeast population and economy via ocean and rail than it is for cargo to traverse the U.S. from the West.

We anticipate that this shift will gradually and incrementally continue, rather than mimic the spikes we saw most recently. It is demographically inevitable and we are ready.

Last week, Gov. Nathan Deal, House Speaker David Ralston, CSX, Murray County and the GPA announced one of the next steps to ensure we can continue building on this success – the Appalachian Regional Port. This new inland port will serve North Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky and not only provide a direct link to international markets via the Port of Savannah, but take up to 50,000 trucks off Atlanta highways in the first year.

Located in an industrial belt, which includes the production and export of carpet, flooring, automobiles and tires, the port will make commodities from this region more competitive in the global market by saving customers money on inland transit costs.

The Appalachian Port, the second of what will be a network of more than six inland ports, will continue to improve our ability to expand our market share and reach in the Southeast while helping to move cargo more economically, efficiently and environmentally sustainably.

In 2013, Gov. Deal, Cordele Intermodal Services and the GPA signed an agreement to launch the Cordele Inland Port which today handles cotton, clay, lumber and other agribusiness exports for customers in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

Our ports impact industries from manufacturing and agriculture to mining, distribution, technology and transportation. We are increasing that impact with a logistics network that extends well beyond the coast, including inland ports. Ultimately economic prosperity for Georgia is what our ports are all about.

With the support of Deal, the Georgia legislature and our Congressional delegation in Washington, construction is moving forward on the Savannah Harbor expansion project in an anticipation of larger vessels that will soon arrive via an expanded Panama Canal. When completed next year, the Jimmy Deloach Parkway Extension will reduce driving time and congestion by bringing Interstate 95 directly into the port.

We continue to invest in cranes and other equipment that accelerate our ability to move cargo and shrink our environmental footprint. Such improvements give shippers confidence that we can maintain outstanding customer service and handle record growth.

Our customers know they can depend on Georgia.

Curtis J. Foltz is executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.

Business skills include grooming, hiring talent

By Gary Campbell

One of the most top-of-mind challenges facing manufacturers is workforce development and the skills gap issue. Our company, Hire Dynamics, which focuses on the manufacturing industry, is a founding partner of Next Generation Manufacturing (NGM), a Georgia-based nonprofit dedicated to the manufacturing industry. They provide a business forum for manufacturers and their resources to exchange best practices relating to innovation, people and processes to create the next generation of manufacturing. The organization accomplishes this through timely programming and events throughout the Southeast.

As part of its ongoing focus on workforce development and diminishing the skills gap, NGM recently hosted a webinar on manufacturing workforce issues and solutions. I was one of the guest speakers, along with Larry Korak and Amy Ihlen, both executives with Infor, a global enterprise software solutions company.

Some of the facts highlighted during the meeting:

  • Georgia manufacturing worker demand versus supply has increased 30 percent in the last 12 months.
  • There are more than 5 million manufacturing jobs going unfilled this month in the United States.
  • Over the next decade, 2.7 million manufacturing jobs will be vacated due to baby boomer retirements and 700,000 jobs are likely to be created due to natural business growth.

These issues, and others, are creating a dire skills gap and the need to manage human capital. Suggested solutions include:

  • Be flexible regarding job requirement expectations. Do they really need four years of experience?
  • Be flexible regarding wages — 49 percent of U.S. companies anticipate wage increases this year.
  • Coordinate education, k-12 thru college, to match local job demand. Update local mindset to fill jobs versus provide degrees.
  • Marshal public, private, and education resources to attack specific local job demand.
  • Human capital management might be one of the last in a company’s to-do list, but given the priority of hiring talent in a tightening labor market, the IT focus on HR needs to be escalated.

These solutions are both short- and long term, applicable to all companies. As we work with manufacturing clients, we encourage them to make their future workforce today’s priority. A few ways to get started are outlined below and reflect the items that should be most important to manufacturers who want to stay competitive:

  • Work with your team to develop and define your company’s long-range employment goals and an operational plan that can be seen and measured. It is important to engage your entire team when implementing cultural changes.
  • Connect with state and local resources: Georgia offers Quick Start and the technical colleges and state and local economic development agencies and chambers of commerce. These agencies have teams dedicated to assisting manufacturers and can assist with startups, expansions and training.
  • Get involved in your manufacturing community. Several counties have developed manufacturing groups that work with the schools and businesses in their community and are a great local resource. Get connected to trade groups, suppliers, etc.
  • Connect with the statewide manufacturing community. Georgia is home to nearly 10,000 manufacturers.

There are successful workforce development programs at companies located throughout Georgia. Groups like NGM provide unique access to these companies and their success stories. Companies like Southwire and their Twelve for Life program; Siemens (located in Forsyth County) and the program they have created with their local education system and business leaders; as well as companies that participate in the Great Promise Partnership, which works with at-risk high school youth, as well as many college and career academies.

The conversation continues and we want you to be a part of it.

Gary Campbell is a senior executive at Hire Dynamics.

Protect our inventors

By C. Russell Allen

Recently, it became easier for Georgia’s inventors to protect their creations from intellectual property thieves. In February, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rolled out “Georgia Patents,” a statewide program that matches low-income innovators with Pro Bono patent lawyers.

Unfortunately, Georgia Patents has arrived at a time when intellectual property is under threat. Congress is currently considering patent law changes that would make it more difficult for even deep-pocketed innovators to protect their inventions.By stifling innovation, the measure would do serious harm to the state economy and hamper advancements in areas like medical research.Ingenuity is the lifeblood of Georgia’s economy. In the last decade, Georgia has seen the nation’s second-largest growth in entrepreneurial activity, according to the Kauffmann Foundation. Inc. magazine ranks Atlanta among the nation’s top 20 most-innovative cities in the country.In 2013, Georgia inventors received more than 2,500 patents — up from 2,128 the year before. Such ingenuity is a key reason Georgia enjoyed the nation’s sixth-highest job rate growth last year.But the innovation that drives Georgia’s economy may not hold out for much longer if Congress moves forward with its proposed patent overhaul. Known as the Innovation Act, the legislation would make it harder for inventors to protect patents in court.

Since 2012, a new extrajudicial review board has invalidated so many patents that one federal judge has called it a patent “death squad.” That wasn’t lawmakers’ intent when they created the board, which was supposed to reduce legal costs by resolving patent disputes through arbitration.

If companies aren’t confident the board will uphold patents — their source of revenue — they may reduce research and development funding for new products. Particularly in the pharmaceutical sector, strong patents are essential for inducing R&D investment.

Under the proposed Innovation Act, patent holders would face a host of new filing requirements, a change that would add cost and risk to the process of filing a lawsuit to protect one’s patent. The Act would also leave many patent-holders on the hook for their opponent’s attorney fees in the event the court sides with the alleged patent infringer.

These and other provisions would discourage innovators from protecting their intellectual property in court. In so doing, the Innovation Act would diminish incentives for individuals and firms to invest in breakthrough research in fields ranging from manufacturing to aerospace and medicine.

Consider the life sciences industry, which supports more than 65,000 jobs in Georgia. Developing a new prescription drug costs, on average, more than $2.5 billion over the course of a decade, according to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development.

Patents make this enormous upfront investment worthwhile because they prevent rival firms from copying a research firm’s drug design. By giving innovators the exclusive right to own and sell their creations, patents encourage companies to spend money creating new products.

The Innovation Act would undermine the ingenuity that powers Georgia’ economy. Georgia’s leaders should oppose the law.

C. Russell Allen, president and CEO of Georgia Bio, is chairman of the Council of State Bioscience Associations.C. Russell Allen, president and CEO of Georgia Bio, is chairman of the Council of State Bioscience Associations.

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