The OOCL France docks at the Georgia Ports Authority Garden City Terminal near Savannah Ga. (Georgia Ports Authority/Emily Goldman)

Four months after the Georgia Ports Authority opened a $24 million inland just north of Chatsworth, Georgia, the port authority said Monday it is adding a second inland port in North Georgia in Gainesville along with a new $15 million automotive distribution facility.

The new Northeast Georgia Inland Port, which plans to open by 2021 with a capacity to handle up to 150,000 containers per year, will be served by a direct rail route to the Port of Savannah by Norfolk Southern Railway and is located along Interstate 85. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said the new inland port site is in "an important region for the production of heavy equipment, food and forest products" and the rail and highway links will facilitate faster movement of goods.

"Besides serving these existing port customers, it will also act as an economic development tool, drawing new investment from business and industry to Hall and its surrounding counties," Deal said.

Auto Metal Direct, a global distributor of auto body panels and trim for classic cars and trucks, will be the first such business to take advantage of the inland port and its direct link between one of the biggest East Coast ports and a major highway for intermodal shipments of cargo to and from overseas sites.

AMD announced Monday it plans to soon begin construction of a 318,000 square-foot distribution and fulfillment center in the Gateway Industrial Centre, which will employ 40 persons when it opens and begins distributing products from hundreds of containers to be brought to the facility by ship and rail before being trucked out to retail locations.

"The proximity of the new inland port will be a real plus in many areas, and was an influencing factor in the eventual location of our building," AMD President Mark Headrick said. "Quicker service, lower cost and ease of movement should all be realized in our new location."

Handling both import and export containers at the new 104-acre Gainesville terminal, Norfolk Southern will provide service on a direct rail route to and from the Port of Savannah's Garden City Terminal.

"Savannah is a rapidly growing gateway for global commerce, and Hall County and the surrounding region in Northeast Georgia are key areas of expansion in the state," said Jeff Heller, vice president of intermodal and automotive for Norfolk Southern.

Presently, containers moving by truck travel an average of 600 miles round-trip to and from the Port of Savannah. When the new rail yard opens, drivers will be able to make shorter trips from area manufacturers and distribution facilities in Northeast Georgia..

"Our new Gainesville location is part of our Network Georgia initiative, which provides new and existing port customers with additional logistics options," said Georgia Port Authority (GPA) Executive Director Griff Lynch.

GPA estimates that Georgia Ports already support more than 440,000 jobs in Georgia.

GPA opened the Appalachian Regional Port in August just north of Chatsworth on a 42-acre site in Murray County. The Appalachian Regional Port is 44 miles south of Chattanooga and is capable of handling 50,000 containers a year.

Tim Evans with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce said the newest inland port in Gainesville has been discussed for the past three years.

"It evolved into finding the best location but it really required about two years of assembling the site together from over 110 different parcels," Evans said.

Contact Dave Flessner at or at 757-6340.