Port marks another record year as its 100th anniversary nears

By Mary Alys Cherry

8-1 Ship Channel

The Port of Houston has long been one of the major economic drivers for Bay Area Houston – longer than most people would think.

Next year, 2014, it will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

And over the years it has steadily grown until today Texas is ranked as the No. 1 exporting state in the country. Not just this past year but for the 11th year in a row, 2012 statistics released by the U.S. Department of Commerce show.

Houston, the federal agency said, is the nation’s top metropolitan area for exports in 2012. Merchandise exports from the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metropolitan area totaled a record $110.3 billion, an increase of 6 percent or $5.8 billion from 2011 to 2012.

Texas exports for 2012 totaled $265 billion, a 5.4 percent increase from the $251 billion recorded in 2011 with Mexico ($94.8 billion) the leading recipient, followed by Canada ($23.7 billion), China ($10.3 billion), Brazil ($10.0 billion) and the Netherlands ($9.5 billion), respectively.

Petroleum and coal products, chemicals, computer and electronic products, non-electrical machinery and transportation equipment were the leading export industries. The Port of Houston is home to the largest petrochemical complex in the nation, and many of the other top goods move across Port Authority docks.

Port Executive Director Len Waterworth thinks “Houston sits on the nexus of the next great economic expansion and that the Port of Houston will continue to be the leading economic engine driving Houston toward that expansion.

“As we approach the 100th anniversary…we see indicators on several fronts that show that Houston’s port will enter the next century at full thrust and the Port Authority and its private industry port partners are preparing for what promises to be a bright and prosperous future.”

Several current and future capital improvement projects demonstrate the depth of commitment by Houston Ship Channel industries toward ensuring the state of Texas remains the nation’s No. 1 state for exports.

A recent Greater Houston Port Bureau study shows ship channel industries have targeted $35 billion in capital investments for the years 2012–2015 – a move that is expected to generate an estimated 111,700 construction jobs, $12.3 billion in wages and $800 million in taxes, according to a Martin Associates study accompanying the report.

Port Bureau President Bill Diehl sees this as solid evidence the Houston Ship Channel must be dredged and maintained at its authorized width and depth if the Port is to realize its maximum potential for economic development.

“Companies are expanding or relocating to our port region because the port gives them access to global markets. In essence, companies are saying, ‘We are investing to expand our markets beyond our shores,’” Diehl said.

“The confidence of these ship channel industries,” Colonel Waterworth added, “that their investments will pay off hinges largely on our ability to accommodate deep-draft vessels by ensuring that the main ship channel is properly maintained at its federally authorized depth of 45 feet and width of 530 feet. Inadequate federal funding to finance that vital dredging intensifies that challenge.”

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