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Funds set for port study

Nestled on the banks of the Black Warrior and Tombigbee waterways, the potential for Demopolis to develop itself into a major player in the southeastern United States’ port system has always existed.

Thursday night, it got a shot in the arm as the City of Demopolis committed $21,000 to the Industrial Development Board which will retain a consulting firm to develop a strategic plan.

W.R. Coles and Associates, of Nashville, has assisted with 143 port projects in 23 states. It’s that kind of experience that gives the IDB hope that the Port of Demopolis will come to fruition.

The firm will provide the IDB with a strategic plan on how it can best maximize the use of its space in developing a viable port. The firm will also help identify business opportunities and assist in developing physical facilities responsive to the needs of future port tenants.

Industrial Board Chairman Mike Marshall said the potential for such a venture was both obvious and exciting.

“In the last few months, we’ve had about 60 contacts from people looking for a port,” he said. “We’re just not in a position to help them right now. But there’s already people out there looking at us.”

Marshall said a recent study of the navigable waters identified two cities as ideal locations for ports: Paducah, Kentucky and Demopolis.

“With Thyssenkrupp getting started in Mobile, there’s going to be businesses and industry looking to move steel up and down to and from Mobile,” Marshall said.

“Geographically, we’re in good position for that. From here to Mobile, south, there are no other ports. North, there’s one, in Columbus.”

Demopolis mayor Mike Grayson said such a financial commitment to this project could be met favorably as the plan progresses.

“I’ve heard that when it comes to developing a port, for every dollar you put in, you can expect to get about seven out,” he said. “Now, you can’t expect that immediately, but the potential for that kind of return is exciting.”