Port of Catoosa Executives say jobs, tonnage and optimism are all on the upswing at the Port.
Chip McElroy, chairman of the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority, told the story of the Port—the historical milestones that led to the successes of the past year in the State of the Port address Thursday morning.
It's a story, he said, that started with newspapers.
"The first barge came in 1971 loaded with 650 tons of newsprint. In December of 2017 we celebrated the arrival of our 50,000th barge. This barge, banner draped, traveled the 445 mile journey from the Mississippi River to Tulsa. It arrived on a very cold and windy day, but this time carrying a shipment of steel coils that were processed by Steel and Pipe Supply, one of our port tenants," McElroy said. "Steel was a fitting commodity to commemorate this achievement given that it represents the resiliency and toughness of the region. And that monumental day serves to remind us the importance of this waterway and what it represents to Tulsa, Rogers county, the State of Oklahoma and the regions."
The 1,366 barges that traveled through the Port this year represent an environmental impact the Port is proud to boast.
"The average 12 barge tow moving along the inland replaces what woulds take 720 semi trucks. When you do the math for 2017, it would have taken over 100,000 additional semi trucks to move the goods that were moved on this waterway," he said.
He added that rail freight is also a critical part of POC operations. In 2017, the POC handled an excess of 10,000 rail cars.
Just like the barges, he said, they represent a freight multiplier over trucks.
"These rail cars kept 40,000 trucks from being needed to get these goods to market," he said.
In terms of lease inquiries, 2017 was a successful year for the Port. McElroy said the port added several new industries: "Samuel and Sons, a new steel processing center, CNS Tech Services, a manufacturer of custom truck bodies and a new eatery in the Port Plaza, Port Coneys."
Additionally, several existing Port industries have announced significant facility expansions in the coming year.
He said the Port's continued efforts on reinvestment into their facility could be seen in the completion of a $1.4 million road replacement project within the site. A dredging of the navigation channel was completed in 2017. Landscaping efforts along the Port's Hwy. 66 boundaries saw progress as well. To date, McElroy said some 370 trees have been planted along this corridor.
In the year ahead, McElroy said a major pavement replacement project throughout the port will be tackled, along with the construction of a new facility and the replacement of aging infrastructure.
"I think the thing I want to convey most strongly about these investments and the economic impact, the expansion and improvements to this port, have all been accomplished without a dime of taxpayer money beyond the initial funding way back in the 1960s," he said. "So if there ever was an example of a successful public, private partnership, I think you have it in the Tulsa Port of Catoosa."
The Port of Catoosa made headlines late in 2017 for the re-opening of TMK, a port industry impacted by a downturn in the energy sector.
"They announced in August that they were bringing their facility out of mothballs and re-opening all 55 acres of their yard. In the last year they have added over 200 jobs. Like TMK we have many other industries, who have had similar exposure to the energy sector, they too have been adding to their workforce's," he said. "So today, the amount of people employed at your port has risen to over 3,200. This reflects a 25% increase in jobs at the Port this year."
He added, "Jobs, tonnage and optimism—they are all on the upswing here at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa. We believe 2018 will be an even better year."