Gov. Corbett Visits Marine Terminal

South Philly Review

“We’re competing with the world for business,” Gov. Tom Corbett said April 18 at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, 3301 S. Columbus Blvd. “Here in Philadelphia, we are starting to win that battle on behalf of Pennsylvania in the shipping competition, the shipping market.”

The Republican official united with nearly 100 fellow commerce connoisseurs for the official announcement of the 112-acre environs’ alliance with Horizon Lines Inc., an ocean shipping and logistics company headquartered in North Carolina. The crowd also witnessed the unloading of a vessel from Puerto Rico, the land that will serve as the focal point for the partners’ international trade route aspirations.

Last week’s gathering coincided with the partnership’s second receipt of a cargo-bearing ship, with April 11 marking the debut, today acting as the third occasion and every subsequent Thursday likewise serving as an arrival date for chemicals, food and beverage products, medical supplies, perishables, pharmaceuticals and produce, among other amenities. Using Horizon Lines’ North Atlantic Express passage, the Port of Philadelphia will reciprocate and send materials to San Juan, Puerto Rico, every Sunday. The City of Brotherly Love will join Jacksonville, Fla., and Houston as locations fostering relationships with the northeastern Caribbean territory and has the principal players anticipating an economic windfall.

“This is the beginning of a new era for Horizon,” President and Executive Director Sam Woodward, whose 57-year-old Charlotte-based company had operated its Northeast port of call in Elizabeth, N.J., for four decades, said. “We are looking forward to our interaction with the Commonwealth and to offering the best service in the Northeast.”

Having Puerto Rico as an ally since 1958, his employer also assists Alaska and Hawaii through its 14-vessel fleet and five terminals. As the 24-year-old Philadelphia Regional Port Authority’s largest facility, the Packer Avenue site specializes in numerous types of cargo and welcomed Corbett for the fourth time since his Jan. 18, 2011 inauguration as Pennsylvania’s 46th governor.

“From the refineries, to the Aker [Philadelphia] Shipyard [2100 Kitty Hawk Ave.], to the improvements we have secured along the river, we know that this port and this region is not only part of our historic past, it is essential to our economic future,” he said.

Corbett recently returned from a trip to South America, where meetings with Brazilian and Chilean business figures reinforced his desire to make his state a global player via the port. He spoke of that trek as a potential complement to the Horizon Lines deal, a hope that Philadelphia Regional Port Authority Executive Director James T. McDermott Jr. seconded.

“Our governor, in a little more than two years, has already invested nearly $22 million in infrastructure improvements to this facility,” McDermott, who soon will manage the Southport project, which will represent the first major expansion for the Port of Philadelphia in half a century, said. “He is also preparing to set aside $30 million more, so in his quest to help us to do more than stand out, he is putting his money where his mouth is.”

Finances figure to be a prevailing topic of the agreement, as Horizon Lines’ presence will create 335 direct jobs and 250 indirect positions, Leo Holt of Holt Logistics Corp. and Astro Holdings Inc., the terminal’s lessee, said. The vocations will generate at least $46 million in total economic gains, with $3 million projected to benefit the City and the Commonwealth.

“We are all in on this,” Corbett said as workers completed the early afternoon unloading of the Horizon Trader. “The work ethic of Pennsylvania’s people is second to none. Our people want to work, they work hard and they work well. When it comes to the men and women waiting on the docks to unload their cargo and get it to market, Horizon has chosen well by choosing Philadelphia.”

That sentiment appealed to state Rep. Bill Keller, who recalled his teenage tenure as a terminal employee.

“More and more people are realizing it’s cheaper and it’s quicker to come to Philadelphia [for business],” the 184th district official, with an office at 1531 S. Second St., said. “Because of what we’re seeing today and will continue to witness, we stand to be a commercial haven.”

Keller lauded the pact as the creator of family-sustaining jobs loaded with benefits and endowing workers with senses of pride.

“I believe that within five years, you will see 3.5 to 5 million containers going through the Port of Philadelphia,” he said to applause from the crowd, which mixed local and state leaders, including union representatives. “Do you know what that means, Governor? It means every kid who wants a job in these neighborhoods will be able to go back to work like I did.”

The accord between the Commonwealth and Horizon adds another prominent element to the Delaware River’s upkeep and advancement. That process includes the dredging, or deepening, of the body of water from 40 to 45 feet at a cost of about $300 million to allow larger ships to dock and more transactions to occur. Officials have said completion of the project should take four more years, with McDermott noting that 90 percent of the efforts will be done over the next 18 months.

“We want to attract more workers to this area because it excels in quality,” Corbett said. “From day one, my administration has been committed to creating new jobs and new opportunities at the Port of Philadelphia while continuing to support the existing workers who have helped to make this port great.”

“I feel like we’re Rocky Balboa, ready to be the best and to take on all the rest,” Woodward added.

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