Ports of Indiana

In our series on the Ports of Indiana, we’ve seen steel and manufacturing hubs on Lake Michigan and the Ohio River. Today, we go to Indiana’s truest river port – Mt. Vernon, outside Evansville. It’s the highest-traffic port in the system, helping move processed grain, coal, and more all around the world. Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Annie Ropeik reports it’s also more susceptible than any other state port to the fallout from shifts in federal policy.

Northwest Indiana’s Lake Michigan port will get nearly $10 million from the federal government for infrastructure upgrades to boost its capacity.

The port of Burns Harbor is spending nearly $20 million total to add rail miles and railcar storage, truck handling facilities, dock space and a new cargo terminal. The U.S. Department of Transportation FASTLANE grant will contribute to that.

The first stop in our series on the Ports of Indiana was Burns Harbor, an international maritime facility in the heart of steel country. Four hours down Interstate 65, the Port of Jeffersonville is less a port and more a manufacturing hub that happens to be on the Ohio River.

For the next part of our series, Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Annie Ropeik reports Jeffersonville is pushing ahead with expansions to cement its place in the Midwest industrial corridor.

Indiana’s ports move millions of tons each year of the stuff that’s made and used at Midwest factories, including steel, grains and coal. The three ports – one on Lake Michigan and two on the Ohio River – connect Indiana to the national and global economies, and each has to find its own ways to keep up with change.

For the first part of a three-part series, we visited the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor to see how it’s secured its place in the steel industry.

Indiana has agreed to buy Ohio River-front land in Lawrenceburg that could house the state’s fourth port.

The state has been considering using the 725 acres in southeast Indiana as its next port facility for nearly a year.

Now, it’s inked an agreement to purchase the site, pending further study. Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office says the agreement will let port officials “begin studies to examine the economic and environmental viability of the parcel.”

Indiana’s three ports had their second-best start to the year ever in 2017.

Burns Harbor, Mt. Vernon and Jeffersonville moved 19 percent more cargo in the first six months of this year than at the same time in 2016 – 5.7 million tons overall.

Almost two-thirds of that went through the southwest port of Mt. Vernon, in the form of bulk cargoes – things like coal, ethanol, fertilizer and minerals, which get transferred between railcars, river barges and trucks.

Indiana’s ports system hopes a new contractor will help bring more bulk cargo than ever into Burns Harbor on Lake Michigan.

Metro Ports is a stevedoring company. It helps manage how cargo gets off- and on-loaded and distributed at 27 ports in 10 states, including huge facilities at Long Beach, California and Seattle-Tacoma, Washington.

Burns Harbor will be the company’s first Great Lakes operation when it takes over the bulk cargo terminal next month.

A who’s-who of Midwest business leaders met in Indianapolis Thursday to talk about their stake in fixing updating the nation’s aging transportation system.

Many say Indiana’s plans for road repairs should stand as a national, multi-modal example.

Ports of Indiana CEO Rich Cooper, who helped host the roundtable discussion, says the state and national economies rely on more than ships and barges. Changes at one part of the system, he says, have huge ripple effects on the rest.

Indiana’s ports had one of their best years ever in 2016, moving nearly 11.3 million tons of cargo.

That included rising grain and coal exports, the kind that could see major changes under Trump administration trade reforms.

A Minnesota steel company is spending almost $9 million dollars to grow its operations at the Port of Indiana in Burns Harbor, as state officials say they’ll prioritize Indiana ports and infrastructure investment in 2017.

Ratner Steel Supply plans to double the size of its four-year-old operations in Portage, just east of Gary.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation says Ratner will add a few dozen jobs and expand its ability to ship steel across the Region.

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