October 30, 2014

House Committee wraps up eastern leg of ports tour

A House Committee has wrapped up a tour of public ports on Mississippi River, asking what those ports do and whether the legislature can do anything to make them more successful and supporting of the state economy. 

The Issue Development Standing Committee on Missouri Ports visits the New Madrid Port.  (photo courtesy; the office of Representative Paul Wieland)

The Issue Development Standing Committee on Missouri Ports visits the New Madrid Port. (photo courtesy; the office of Representative Paul Wieland)

Its chairman, Representative Paul Wieland (R-Imperial) says the committee was formed in part when a need arose to replace jobs about to be lost when the Doe Run smelter in his home County of Jefferson is about to close.

“With the River, it’s a natural asset that runs right alongside of our county, so that’s kind of how it started. I started looking into ports and seeing if they are a viable thing to bring economic activity to the area. The more I learned the more I thought this is a resource not just for Jefferson City but for the entire state. So we created the port committee to kinda study these ports and find out what, if anything, the legislature can do to promote their growth and economic development.”

Wieland says the visits to ports will allow the lawmakers to form a better report to submit to the Speaker of the House later this year.

“There are a lot of people that have developed ports and we can learn from them, as far as, why reinvent the wheel? If they’ve got a port up and running we can kind of learn from them … you can also pick up tips on what the pitfalls were, what kind of roadblocks they ran into and try to avoid those for future ports that are being developed.”

The committee will visit ports in St. Joseph and Kansas City later this month.

Wieland says there is interest in this topic from lawmakers in both parties, both urban and rural.

“We talk in Jeff City every day about, ‘How are we going to create jobs in Missouri?’ Well … we’ve got these natural resources that are right here, right for the taking. With some help from the legislature we can create those jobs that we’ve been talking about.”

Wieland says the committee will have more to say about what the legislature might be able to do to help the development of ports after those visits to Kansas City and St. Joseph.

The Committee is looking into the operation of public ports that are leased out to tenants. River ports in Missouri deal with goods and commodities that are coming in or out of the state, and some also operate ferries such as those that take people back and forth between Missouri and Illinois.