CEO’s log: One year of progress
Published 4:56 am Saturday, April 15, 2023
It has been one year since I was blessed with the incredible opportunity to lead the Port of South Louisiana. On my first day, our team hit the ground running and I’m incredibly proud of the progress that our Port has made in one short year. By restructuring our organization, placing an existing brilliant staff in roles that fit their strengths and bringing on new talent to fill in the gaps, our team was able to tackle big goals. Many of those goals were set when my team and I identified three areas to prioritize: Agriculture, Infrastructure and Energy Diversity.
Port of South Louisiana has reversed a six-year trend of net tonnage losses and is finally growing. The numbers do not lie, with the Port moving 10 million more short tons of cargo in 2022 than the year before. Our Commission, Staff and I are constantly thinking outside the box and taking tremendous steps to maximize our growth and operate at optimal levels. Last year, Port SL faced many challenges, including barges being unable to move safely on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Despite the adversity brought on by Mother Nature, the Port took major steps to overcome obstacles and remain resilient. In August, Port SL dedicated two new Konecranes at its Globalplex Intermodal Terminal Dock, doubling the Port’s discharge rate and making the Port more efficient with less downtime in the offloading process.
Port SL has also made significant improvements at our Airport. As you know, our Port is home to multiple domestic and international companies, like Louisiana Sugar Refinery that you will read about in this feature. We have seen that aviation facilities are vital to these companies as they have aircraft bringing personnel into and out of their facilities. Because of the vital link between our river port and airport resources, we are in the process of planning the expansion of Executive Regional Airport’s facilities for the future.
Port of South Louisiana is responsible for exporting 60% of this nation’s grain. Seven of the state’s nine grain elevators are located in our Port’s jurisdiction and for the first time in 40 years, a new grain terminal is planned to be constructed in the state of Louisiana. Greenfield Louisiana’s plans for this new, state-of-the-art grain elevator and accompanying Dock will facilitate the movement of agricultural goods from both local and national farmers in the U.S. to end users throughout the world. The project will create 500+ jobs during peak construction and 100+ full-time, well-paying jobs with benefits once operational. Greenfield Louisiana will be a game-changer, creating wealth for St. John Parish and the region and increasing our state’s grain output by 10%.
Lastly, by now you may have heard the exciting news about Port SL’s agreement with T. Parker Host to purchase Louisiana’s greatest industrial icon, Avondale Global Gateway! Our Port SL Commission unanimously approved and directed me to begin the process to acquire this 254-acre global logistics hub along the Mississippi River which will allow our Port to be more competitive in traditional international trade and focus on the new frontier of renewable energy development. The acquisition of Avondale Global Gateway will further solidify the Port of South Louisiana as the premier gateway for U.S. import and export traffic and aligns with our goals to facilitate economic development in the River Parishes and Southeast Louisiana through waterborne commerce. This unique public-private partnership with Host remaining as operator is supported by Jefferson Parish officials and business groups, including Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng, Jefferson Parish Council, JEDCO and the Jefferson Parish Chamber.
I often say that Port of South Louisiana’s best days are still ahead. 2022 was a great year for Port SL but our Commission, Staff and I are not letting our foot off the accelerator. We show up to work every day with the mission to reach new heights, attract good-paying jobs and make Louisiana and America more competitive in the ever-changing shipping markets. We wish all of our partners prosperity in the new year and stand ready to assist you in any way we can.
Paul Matthews is the chief executive officer of the Port of South Louisiana. Learn more about the Port of South Louisiana at https://portsl.com/