Vice President Joe Biden was in Norfolk September 24 meeting with leaders at the Port of Virginia and local, state and federal elected officials to discuss the Port’s infrastructure. Biden’s visit was to applaud the Virginia Port Authority on receiving a $15 million federal grant for upgrades to the North Gate complex at Norfolk International Terminals. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant is to be matched with Port Authority funds of $16 million. The project will link the gate with the planned Interstate 564 Intermodal Connector.
A group of nearly 200 business and community leaders, military and port workers gathered at Nauticus to hear remarks from the Vice President. In addition to Biden, providing remarks were Governor Terry McAuliffe; Senator Mark Warner; U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott; U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen; Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim; and John Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority.
Mayor Fraim, said, “We are so excited about this grant. This $31 million investment will not only increase efficiency in port operations to and from the port, but it will also reduce truck traffic on residential streets. This is great for the Port and great news for the City. We will advance our position in the global marketplace.”
U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen, explained that our nation will grow by over 80 million people by 2050 and as we grow, we will need more food, goods, commerce, energy and national security. Jaenichen said that our nation will require 14 billion more tons of goods annually than handled today. “Since 2009, through six rounds of TIGER, the Obama administration has awarded nearly $500 million to 40 port and maritime projects around the country,” said Jaenichen.
“This is a big deal for us folks,” said Governor McAuliffe. He explained that this grant and the match will allow the area to open up this area, alleviate congestion, move our military and raise property values. McAuliffe thanked the Obama administration and added, “I want to thank John Reinhart. He and I have been working very hard on this port and made tremendous progress in the last eight months. This is a jewel for us. We can take our products all over the globe.”
The crowd gave Vice President Biden a standing ovation as he took the podium. He proudly stated that the U.S. has the greatest sea power in the world.
He explained that he has visited nearly every port in the nation. Biden said, “For the Virginia workforce, over 343,000 jobs exist because of this Port. These aren’t any jobs. These are middle class jobs. These are jobs to raise a family on.”
“Our economy depends on shipping,” he said. “This Port generates $41 billion of revenue in local business and $1.2 billion in state and local taxes.”
Biden explained that during a recent trip to the Panama Canal he witnessed major changes. New larger ships are carrying twice the cargo at half the cost. “Eighty percent of everything that goes to and from that Canal is either from the United States or coming to the United States and it’s going to increase,” Biden said.
Biden stressed that we need to modernize our infrastructure and act now. He explained there are two critical elements to be the world leader: a skilled and talented workforce and the most modern infrastructure.
The Vice President concluded by saying, “This is the beginning. We look forward to long term expansion. We have the most skilled workforce in the world. It’s never been a good bet, to bet against America!”
The Port of Virginia is a critical segment of the Hampton Roads economy supporting thousands of jobs and millions of dollars worth of economic activity across the Commonwealth. Our region is host to one of the largest port facilities in the U.S. serving two thirds of the nation’s population with overnight service. Virginia's port is the third-largest container port on the East Coast and is one of only two with 50-foot channels. Virginia is the only East Coast port authorized to dredge to 55 feet, which will make it possible to handle large container ships.
Ira Agricola, Executive Vice President for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, said, “Even with all of the natural and geographical advantages the Port of Virginia must continue to invest in infrastructure improvements to compete on a global basis. The $15 million federal grant that will be matched with $16 million from the VPA will enable the Port of Virginia to garner new efficiencies in connections to surface routes to and from NIT. These types of investments are applauded by the regional chamber as further enhancements to port operations that create jobs and economic prosperity in our region.”