By Staff Writer
Consider these great cities and thriving economies of antiquity: Tyre, Thessalonica and Portus. Now think of modern cities like New York, New Orleans, and Shanghai. What do they all have in common? They are all port cities. Commodities and goods from around the world were/are shipped into these ports and the result is a thriving regional economy. With that kind of economic vitality in view, county judge executives and other officials from four Kentucky counties seek to develop a riverport authority serving Western Kentucky. The Western Kentucky Alliance for a Vibrant Economy or WAVE is a new and exciting economic alliance of Ballard, Carlisle, Fulton and Hickman counties. WAVE began its first annual conference at Columbus-Belmont State Park on October 24th. Governor Bevin was happy to be the Headline Speaker to kick off the event.
The Governor expounded on a term that was prominent in some of the conference literature, "confluence". "Confluence is a good word, Bevin said. "It is defined as a coming together and that's what you folks have done with this alliance." He went on to highlight that Huck Finn, in his river adventure with Jim was trying to get to the area where the conference was being held, an area just below the confluence of two mighty American rivers, the Ohio and the Mississippi.
"As you know our state motto is 'United We Stand Divided We Fall,' I am grateful, truly appreciative, of these county judges who are standing together," Bevin said. "We are united in this effort. It is this unity that is going to allow us to succeed."
Instead of using large amounts of tax dollars, this project will be a public/private partnership. The tentative plan of WAVE is to establish a port at the old Verso Paper plant in Wickliffe. Recently passed P3 legislation allows port officials to solicit funds from any private industries that may have an interest in investing in a port. Though that interest is grounds for optimism, the opening of a port won't be immediate. Though the region possesses all of the ingredients to bring the new port to fruition, area experts caution that significant effort is still required to make the vision a reality.
Governor Bevin encouraged attendees to be patient, likening the project to agricultural endeavors. He quipped," You can grow and harvest a radish very quickly, but who wants a bowl full of radishes?" Bevin went on to explain that a much more palatable vegetable could be enjoyed if the gardener was patient enough to work and wait a little longer and that a project as large and potentially beneficial as this will require patience and perseverance.
While no one at the conference expects one of these counties to spawn a metropolis like the cities mentioned above, there are events on an international scale that could be a catalyst for the new port. In June of this year a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar project was completed in Panama that expanded the locks of the Panama Canal. These expanded locks will allow passage through the canal by cargo "mega-ships". These ships can carry three times more cargo than was possible for the smaller ships that could fit through the old locks. The canal expansion is expected to greatly increase economic opportunities for ports around the world.
This event was a working meeting and conference intended to advance toward the goals of WAVE. It was not merely a forum for speechmaking. The conference continued through the following day.