Expansion of Georgia’s “other” port

Moderated by Rick Badie

The state has an ambitious capital improvement plan of nearly $155 million over the next 10 years for the Port of Brunswick – a testament to the automotive tonnage and bulk cargo that pass through its terminals. The Georgia Ports Authority’s executive director explains the infrastructure upgrades in today’s lead column. In the second essay, a state agency head touts the economic benefits of early child care education in the state, based on a joint study compiled by Georgia State and the University of Georgia.

Expansions at Georgia’s “other” port

By Curtis J. Foltz

Less than 100 miles south of the Port of Savannah, America’s fastest growing container port, is Georgia’s “other” port. A leader in its own right, the Port of Brunswick is the country’s fastest growing major roll on/roll off – or automotive – port. In the coming decade, the Georgia Ports Authority will triple its reinvestment of revenues generated by our ports to help ensure Brunswick continues to outpace competing ports – fueling economic opportunity for our state and country.

Brunswick is actually three ports that specialize in freight that is not shipped in the containers that dominate Savannah’s import/export business. In addition to automobiles, Brunswick’s ports handle heavy machinery, forest products and a diverse mix of bulk commodities. The ports are critical, cost-effective, efficient links to overseas markets for American factory and farm production.

The most recent fiscal year saw growth in break-bulk cargo, which includes paper and linerboard. And biofuels – including peanut and wood pellets – grew by 28 percent. Georgia and our neighboring states are home to one of the world’s most significant forest biomass resources and Brunswick is the link to Europe, the world’s most rapidly expanding wood pellet market. Recent expansion of infrastructure to accommodate these exports has created jobs across Georgia’s and the Southeast’s transportation, logistics and forest industries.

But it is Brunswick’s boom in cars that is drawing the spotlight down the coast from Savannah. The port’s 10-year cumulative annual automotive tonnage growth rate of 12.8 percent is far outpacing the national growth rate average of 4.5 percent for other roll on/roll off ports. Brunswick handled 680,414 cars, trucks and tractors during the most recent fiscal year. Only Baltimore moved more roll on/roll off cargo.

Nissan, Honda and Toyota all grew exports from Brunswick, ranging from 12 to 71 percent increases. General Motors, Kia, Land Rover and Subaru all increased imports via Brunswick by double digits in the most recent fiscal year – with BMW nearly reaching that mark. With automotive manufacturing growing in the southeast and the region’s standing as the country’s fastest-growing consumer market for autos, the only factor limiting continued growth in this region is capacity. But with 696 acres in use and 641 acres permitted for expansion at Brunswick’s Colonel’s Island facility, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) has room to grow to accommodate additional business.

Over the past decade, GPA has spent $46.2 million on infrastructure upgrades at Brunswick. Over the next 10 years, we are committed to more than triple that investment with $152 million in improvements. We will be improving Brunswick facilities serving each of our major business sectors, including adding a fourth berth to serve roll-on/roll-off cargo and more parking space for the vehicles.

As always, GPA is focused on environmental sustainability even as we invest in the economic sustainability for Georgia, the Southeast and the U.S. We have preserved or created 312 acres of wetlands on Colonel’s Island within Brunswick’s ports. We’ve also completed an eight-acre excavation on Colonel’s Island’s Southside recovering hundreds of artifacts yielding valuable knowledge of the antebellum and post-Civil War eras.

As we reinvest in Brunswick, we are looking to the federal government for equally important infrastructure improvement – Brunswick harbor maintenance dredging. The president’s budget does not include sufficient funds to maintain the Brunswick Harbor at its authorized depth, nor has Congress passed an Energy and Water Appropriations Bill needed to fund this work that is so critical to our economy.

The return on investment in Brunswick is significant. The Georgia Ports Authority is responsible for 369,193 full- and part-time jobs (9,000 in the greater Brunswick area), $84.1 billion in sales, $33.2 billion in state gross domestic product and $20.4 billion in income.

So like any business planning to ensure sustained growth, we are poised to reinvest in our ports from Savannah to Brunswick. Georgia and America stand to benefit for the next generation.

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

The big business of caring for children

By Amy M. Jacobs

It stands to reason that we at the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) have always believed that early care and education has a huge impact on our state. After all, DECAL was created to meet the early child care and education needs of Georgia’s children and their families.

To that end, we work closely with thousands of child care providers: private for-profit, nonprofit, Head Start, military, school systems, large child-care chains, small independent operations, etc. Last year, we asked Georgia State University and the University of Georgia to solicit, compile and analyze data that would help us understand exactly what this industry means to the state.

The study, the Economic Impact Study of the Early Care and Education Industry in Georgia 2015, clearly reveal that the early care and education industry produces significant, measurable short-term effects and immeasurable long-term effects on our children, families, communities and state.

The early care and education industry in Georgia generates $4.7 billion in economic activity annually: $2.45 billion poured directly into the industry by parent fees/tuition, state and federal program funding and philanthropic contributions; and $2.24 billion to support services the industry provides to children (transportation, food service, janitorial services). More than 67,000 people statewide work in the early care and education industry. These staggering figures prove that the industry is a viable economic engine for our state.

More than 337,000 children from birth to age 5 are cared for in child care centers, group child care homes and family child care homes. Because their children are enrolled in these safe and healthy child care environments, parents/families work and earn more than $24 billion annually (not calculated in the $4.7 billion directly generated by the industry).

As an industry, Georgia’s early care and education providers generate $2.45 billion in annual gross industry receipts. By comparison, health and personal care retail stores generate $2.40 billion; printing, $2.43 billion; and pharmaceutical, preparation and manufacturing, $2.55 billion.

Research shows that a person’s most significant brain development occurs in the first five years of his or her life. Research also indicates that the quality of care a child receives in these early years can greatly impact her or his success in school and in life.

In response to that research, DECAL has worked hard the past decade to change the perception of child care – from “day care” and “babysitting” to early education. We work with the thousands of early care and education providers and teachers to train them on best practices when interacting with the infants, toddlers and preschoolers in their care. We support teachers to take advantage of these important developmental years by encouraging pre-literacy, pre-math and social emotional skills. We offer training and technical assistance to enhance the quality of care provided by the industry.

The impact of this work accomplished every day by the early care and education industry is immeasurable and will be realized only as Georgia’s students progress through their educational careers. The impact of this work will be seen as young people enroll in university or technical college, enter the workforce or join the military and become contributing members of society. It’s impossible to attach a dollar figure to the long-term effects of the work, but I believe the foundation for learning that can be laid in the life of a child in a high-quality child care setting is priceless.

I invite you to access the executive summary of the Economic Impact Study of the Early Care and Education Industry in Georgia 2015 at http://www.decal.ga.gov/BftS/Research.aspx.

The full report will be posted on the DECAL website soon. The report will convince you that the early care and education industry is vitally important for our children, our economy, and the future of our state.

Amy M. Jacobs is commissioner of Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.

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