PhilaPort development means more jobs and economic investment for Pa. residents | Opinion

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The ship Zhen Hua 16 carrying PhilaPort’s two giant cranes prepares to dock at the Packer Avenue Terminal in South Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania’s ports are the doorway to our national and global reach. We are the only state with port access to the Atlantic Ocean (Philadelphia), Gulf of Mexico (Pittsburgh), and Great Lakes (Erie), and we rank in the top 10 states in the nation for the volume of goods moving through its ports. That’s why Gov. Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey have made investing in our port infrastructure a top priority.

On March 24, PhilaPort marked the beginning of a new era of growth with the arrival of two large-capacity Post-Panamax cranes, the first two of four that will be installed at the port.

The new cranes, which will result in increased cargo-handling capacity and efficiency, are among a series of changes made possible by a more than $300 million investment in the port’s infrastructure, warehousing, and equipment that was announced by the Wolf administration in 2016, with funding secured by Sen. Casey for the Delaware River deepening project.

Besides doubling container capacity, the investment will provide increased capacity for cargo not housed in containers, as well as a substantial increase in automobile cargo capacity.

That means bigger ships will be bringing in more containers of products, including cars, fruit, cocoa, lumber, and liquid bulk. In fact, we’re seeing the results of that growth already; PhilaPort hit a historic record in container growth in 2017, leading all ports on the U.S. Atlantic seaboard.

The expanded capacity of PhilaPort is a boon to Philadelphia-area workers, the regional economy, and Pennsylvania as a whole.

The more cargo the port brings in, the more workers are needed. The growth from the historic investment allows the port to create not just thousands of direct jobs in the port itself, but several thousand additional induced and indirect jobs, like drivers, rail workers, suppliers, inland distribution center workers, and other waterfront-related businesses. In fact, since the investment in the port, Penn Terminals and Crowley Maritime Corp. have announced they will bring more than 500 jobs and weekly container service to the ports of greater Philadelphia, which will inject millions of dollars into the local economy.

The investment also enables PhilaPort to improve its competitive position against other East Coast ports, like those in New York, Baltimore, Wilmington, and Newark, N.J. This means thousands of middle-class blue-collar jobs are being created right here in Pennsylvania rather than in other states. It means a surge in revenue for the commonwealth, generating nearly $40 million annually in additional state and local taxes, bringing that total annual number to nearly $110 million. And it means a commitment to the infrastructure that is so vital to fostering our economic growth in the years ahead.

Plans are in place or in progress at PhilaPort to relocate and construct warehouses to facilitate container growth, deepen the berths of terminals to accommodate larger ships, and make improvements to the port’s electrical infrastructure. Combined with the arrival of the new large-capacity cranes, these successes demonstrate what happens when we invest wisely in our ports and other infrastructure.

As a businessman, Gov. Wolf knows what makes good business sense – and he knows which investments will have the most significant positive impacts for Pennsylvanians across the commonwealth.

We put so much effort into supporting PhilaPort because we know its wide-reaching economic impact in Pennsylvania at the state and regional levels. As the port is a significant provider of jobs, investment, and economic activity, the Wolf administration understands the necessity of keeping PhilaPort competitive.

When we support the port’s growth, we are supporting the entire state of Pennsylvania.

Dennis M. Davin is secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.