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Former Gov. Perdue’s cabinet nomination bodes well for our ports

  • Then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, right, along with Clarence Gooden of the CSX Corporation, hammer the last spike in the Georgia Ports Authoritys new Chatham Intermodal Container Transfer Facility in 2009. In his eight years in office, Perdue was a staunch supporter of the state’s deepwater ports. (Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News)
  • Perched some 160 feet above the bustling Georgia Ports in April 2006, then-Gov. Sonny Perdue lifted and moved the first ceremonial box onto Container Berth 8. (Savannah Morning News file photo)

Donald Trump’s nomination for Secretary of Agriculture would put someone with a keen understanding of the importance of Georgia’s deepwater ports at the new president’s elbow.

In the eight years former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue held the state’s top elected office, he and his appointed board at the Georgia Ports Authority oversaw the fastest and most expansive growth in the container port’s history.

The Port of Savannah grew from 1.5 million TEUs – or 20-foot containers – in calendar year 2003 to 2.8 million boxes in 2010. The increase of 1.3 million TEUs was the greatest growth in containerized trade through Garden City Terminal of any Georgia governor’s tenure.

Perdue was the first governor to put an emphasis on the state ports as an economic engine, not just for coastal Georgia, but the entire state and Southeast. His emphasis on growing Georgia exports resulted in Garden City Container Terminal having the most balanced ratio of imports to exports of any other major U.S. port, and his support of the terminal’s $110 million Container Berth 8 added much-needed capacity to what was already the longest single container terminal from Maine to Texas.

A tireless advocate of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, Perdue traveled to Panama in 2009 to stress the importance of deepening the Savannah River in concert with the expanded canal.

But Perdue’s strong support of the ports and its infrastructure aren’t the only reasons Georgians should be delighted to have him as Agriculture Secretary, said longtime friend and associate Alec Poitevint of Bainbridge.

Poitevint, president and CEO of Southeastern Minerals Inc., served on the GPA board for nine years, two as its chairman.

“I’m in agribusiness and I can say unequivocally that Sonny Perdue is the most qualified person ever to be considered or named to the Secretary of Agriculture position,” he said.

“A third-generation farmer, he grew up on a dairy farm, then got into the feed and fertilizer business. He is a veterinarian, so is well-versed in the science of agribusiness and animal husbandry,” Poitevint said. “He is what people in the agriculture business have wanted for a long time - someone who speaks their language and understands their challenges.

“Those of us who live in Georgia have long benefited from his leadership,” Poitevint said. “Having Sonny as Agriculture Secretary will be America’s good fortune.”

John S. James Co. celebrates 75 years

In 1924, Savannahian John Sullivan James left school after eighth grade for the shipping industry. He worked for several companies before settling with Strachan Shipping and eventually striking out on his own, forming the John S. James Co. in 1941.

In the years since its founding, the company has grown from one man and his typewriter to 122 employees and six offices across the Southeast.

Today, the company’s services cover not only ensuring regulatory compliance for imports and exports, but also third-party logistics duties such as booking space on vessels, trains and trucks.

Handling more than 50,000 import and export entries representing more than 100,000 containers per year, the company serves several business sectors, including large chemical companies and automakers, among others.

That said, the company – now in the hands of the second and third generations - continues to maintain the excellent customer service its founder insisted upon.

“We pride ourselves on being able to offer personalized service to our clients on a global scale, no matter if they are a Fortune 100 company or a small, individual importer or exporter,” said Len James, chief financial officer and part of the third generation in the business.

In May, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker presented the company with the President’s “E” Award for Exports at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The President’s “E” Award is the highest recognition any U.S. entity can receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports.

Congratulations to the “James gang” as they begin their journey to the century mark.

Imports beat expectations

Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports saw an unexpected increase during the industry’s busy holiday season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

Global Port Tracker, which follows the country’s major cargo ports, had previously predicted a year-over-year increase in container traffic of 3.2 percent in December, but those numbers have now been revised upward to an expected 7-percent growth.

January is forecast to come in 5.7 percent better than the same month last year. February is expected to be down 1.5 percent while March and April will be up 6.5 percent and 7.3 percent respectively. May is projected to be down by half a percentage point.

“Economic data is fickle by nature – it surges and falls and often surprises us,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said, referring to sometimes-contradictory economic numbers seen over the past year. “There is both optimism and pessimism and pointers showing growth as well as decline.”

Global Port Tracker covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

Senior business reporter Mary Carr Mayle covers the ports for the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow. She can be reached at 912-652-0324 or at mary.mayle@savannahnow.com.

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