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Port of Victoria calls improvements a competitive advantage for economy

By KBell
Oct. 26, 2010 at 5:26 a.m.

The Port of Victoria's $1.5 million new chemical dock abuts nearly 800 feet of water, calm after a day of barge traffic. The dock is part of port improvements that were just finished with the help of a $6 million bond package.

On a hilltop overlooking slow-moving barges, community leaders celebrated the completion of improvements to the Port of Victoria, hailing it a competitive advantage for Victoria's economy.

The improvements, made possible by a $6 million bond package in 2008, include expanded rails, a new chemical dock, road improvements and an overhaul of a railroad bridge.

These specific projects have been in the works for about two years, but the Victoria County Navigation District Chairman Robert Loeb, said recent economic victories are the fruit of years of labor.

"We've been working on economic development for 30 years," Loeb told the crowd gathered Tuesday afternoon. "We've invested time, assets, blood, sweat and tears, and with the help of (the Victoria Economic Development Corporation) and a lot of people in the community, we landed Caterpillar Tractor."

Lee Swearingen, who was chairman of the navigation district from 1999 to 2009, said the intent of the improvements that started under his hand, was to attract another big-name industry to the area.

"After Invista and Formosa, we kind of came to a standstill, and we felt we needed to move it forward," Swearingen said. "We were successful in doing it."

Loeb said the port, being surrounded by waterways, rails and major highways, is an asset to the community.

"Without the infrastructure of the port and the inland waterway system, Lone Tree Business Park with rail and highway transportation, companies like Caterpillar would not even consider Victoria," he said.

Dale Fowler, president of the VEDC, gave credit to the "can-do" attitude of staff and commissioners at the port.

"The attitude that the port has shown to Caterpillar and the possibilities of the facilities that exist here are almost limitless," Fowler said. "It's going to be interesting to see where we go a few years from now.

Fowler was interviewed in a recent segment on FOX Business Channel's "Inside Business with Fred Thompson." The five-minute segment uses the Port of Victoria to highlight the importance of ports to economic development.

Fowler saw the national attention as another victory for Victoria's economy.

"The more people know about the Port of Victoria, the better are our odds at attracting new industry to the region."



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