RINGGOLD, Ga. - During a visit with local business leaders, Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday that a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives today could affect Northwest Georgia.
If passed, the legislation will raise the approved price tag for the cost of dredging the Port of Savannah. This project would deepen part of the port from 42 feet to 47 feet. Experts believe the dredging will cost about $660 million, a much steeper bill than the expected $250 million price tag that lawmakers approved when the plan originally was passed in 1999.
If the port becomes deeper, Deal said, larger cargo ships that will soon pass through the Panama Canal can stop in Savannah. And if these larger ships can stop in Savannah, Georgia will continue to get an economic boost from the shipping industry.
The Port of Savannah provides billions of dollars to Georgia's economy. In one way or another, the port also impacts thousands of jobs across the state.
"There's not a county that we have been able to identify that does not in some way benefit from the products that float out of or float into the Savannah Port," the Republican governor told local leaders at a meeting in the Catoosa County Civic Center on Tuesday. "We're hopeful that [today] is going to be a good day for us."
The legislation in the House does not guarantee any federal money for the project. It simply approves the expected price tag. If this passes, Deal said, Georgia will then push for a federal investment, and for permission to actually start dredging the port.
Deal said the state has already set aside $231 million for this project. He said federal government leaders in the past have vowed to cover 60-70 percent of the project's cost.
On Tuesday, the governor said the port project will impact Northwest Georgia's manufacturing industry just as it will the industries in other parts of the state.
"Although the flooring industry as such is not a large exporter," he said, "they do export some of the product from here in Northwest Georgia. And the Port of Savannah is the logical place that they ship it out of."
Martha Eaker, president of the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce, said that if more goods are shipped to Georgia, the state's traffic will become worse. The shipping will bring semi-trucks that carry the goods to other states, she said, and the trucks will clog the highways.
Still, she said the positives of the project seem to outweigh the negatives.
"It will impact Northwest Georgia and even Tennessee," she said. "The South - and in particular the Southeast - is one of the fastest growing areas in the countries. To get goods and services delivered to the Southeast would be an advantage."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.