America's Central Port located along the metro-east river front continues to spur economic growth.
New statistics, released Monday by Edwardsville-based RSN Economic Group Inc., reveal that the port district in Granite City and Madison has expanded Madison County's economy.
The port, which was initially called Tri-City Regional Port District, began re-development of the former U.S. Army Charles Melvin Price Support Center in 2002. Today, now known as America's Central Port, the 1,200-acre business park has more than 70 tenants and companies employing more than 750 people. The business park has a $282 million annual economic impact and supports more than 1,450 direct and indirect jobs --a 36 percent increase in the port's overall economic impact in Madison County since 2007 -- and $70 million in wages.
That's up from the $208 million economic impact that the port district had on the region in 2007, according to similar study that RSN Economic Group conducted five years ago. At that time, the Mississippi River port and business park had created a total of 1,347 direct and indirect jobs and a $66 million payroll.
RSN Economic Group economist and interim dean of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Business John Navin said one of the most encouraging signs from the analysis is the recent economic growth occurred during a time of economic depression.
"It is a real economic engine for the county, and that's really impressive, especially if you look at the time period when as we've seen a pretty much sustained decrease in economic activity, but in the same time the port continues growing and creating jobs and increasing the tax base. That's quite an accomplishment given the rest of the economic environment," Navin said.
The port generates almost $10 million in state and local taxes each year as well as $2.2 million property tax revenues for Granite City, Madison and Venice and their schools.
America's Central Port Executive Director Dennis Wilmsmeyer pointed to major tenants, such as ethanol manufacturer Abengoa Bioenergy, air-inflated dome manufacturer Arizon Air Structures, Mattingly Lumber and the U.S. Army Reserve. Although some of the new business tenants moved into the port district before the recession, Wilmsmeyer said the sustained growth is a testament to the port district's role in the metro-east's economy.
"I think what's more impressive is the period of time that was fairly stagnant economic times," Wilmsmeyer said. "A lot of those had started prior to the downturn in the economy. We still saw some good growth and good opportunities through the economic downturn. That was one of the biggest keys to get us through that."
A total of 2.5 million tons of commodities valued at $1.1 billion pass through the port each year. The port loads and unloads 250,000 barges annually that carry agricultural products, steel, fertilizer, and asphalt. America's Central Port provides foreign trade zone, commercial warehousing, industrial property, office space, recreation and residential apartments.
"That shows tremendous growth and shows the importance of the port, not only to our region, but up and down the Mississippi River," Navin said. "I think that bodes well for the future."
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.