Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
MARAD Gateway Announcement
Thursday, August 23, 2018
Thank you, Admiral Buzby, for that kind introduction.
I want to start by thanking Mayor Harless, Mayor Pro Tem and Chamber President Sandra Wilson, and the Carson Center for supporting this event. We have other important guests including Bill Paape, MARAD’s Director of Gateways offices and Ms. Branden Criman, Director of the Inland Waterways Gateway office in St. Louis. I also want to recognize Matt Ricketts, President and CEO of the Crounse Corporation.
I am always so happy to be back home in Kentucky. I am delighted to be back in Paducah, where I’ve come so many times on so many occasions. Most recently, I was here last May 3, 2018 to speak at the Chamber’s Public Policy luncheon. I said this Administration wanted to make sure rural communities will no longer be overlooked and forgotten when it comes to infrastructure investment.
Today, I am here to help invest in the infrastructure of this rural region. One of the reasons I am here today is to open the Maritime Administration’s Inland Waterways Gateway Office in Paducah. Some of you may remember that this is the SECOND government office I have established in Paducah. On July 5, 2001, when I was Secretary of Labor, I opened the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Resource Center to help workers who were exposed to radiation and other toxic substances at their workplaces and their families. The processing of these claims was proceeding so slowly that Congress had transferred this compensation program to the U.S. Department of Labor to speed it up. And, we did. I remember the first compensation check was processed within 6 months and it was handed to the first recipient, Clara Harding and her family, in a moving, memorable ceremony on August 9, 2001. By the time my term as Secretary of Labor ended in 2008, the Department of Labor had provided affected workers and their families nationwide more than $4.2 billion in lump sum compensation and $282.1 million in medical benefits.
Now, as U. S. Secretary of Transportation, I have another opportunity to help the economic development of this great region of our Commonwealth and the hard-working people of this great community.
Paducah, has always been a natural hub for regional inland waterway traffic because of its special location, situated between the Tennessee, Ohio, Cumberland and Mississippi Rivers. It’s been Kentucky’s crown jewel in terms of maritime importance. Today, it is a major site for dry dock facilities, as well. The Paducah-McCracken County Riverport is a multi-modal center, with waterway, rail, and road connections. As a result, Paducah has become the headquarters to important barge line companies, and home to more U.S.-flag inland waterway operators than anywhere else in the nation.
At the same time, and for the same reasons, Paducah has become a center for maritime training. Paducah has a state-of-the-art towing industry training facility just across the street – the Seaman’s Church Institute. And the West Kentucky Community and Technical College is home to the Inland Logistics and Marine Institute, providing hands-on education in its Marine Technology program.
Several weeks ago, the Maritime Administration, one of the modes in the Department of Transportation, convened the National Gateway Convention here in Paducah. This gathering demonstrated the importance of Paducah to our nation’s Inland Waterway system.
Today, I am here to highlight three more investments the U. S. Department of Transportation is making to help Paducah and Kentucky maintain their important position in the inland waterways industry:
1) As mentioned, establishing the new Inland Waterways Gateway Office in Paducah;
2) A $251,927 Marine Highway grant for the Paducah-McCracken Riverport Container-on-Barge Service; and
3) A recent $1.125 million Small Shipyard Grant to the Walker Boat Yard to support the purchase of a Manitowoc 180-ton Crawler Crane.
With the level of maritime activity that I just mentioned, it makes sense to place a Maritime Administration Gateway office in Paducah. The Department took great care in making the decision to open a new Gateway office. Different cities were evaluated based on their location, maritime communities, cost of living, access to industry and other factors. I am proud to say Paducah won the competition fair and square.
This Maritime Gateway office will be one of ten Gateway offices in the United States. These offices are located on the West, East and Gulf coasts, as well as the Great lakes and the inland waterways. They provide a wide range of customer services to the maritime community. And they promote collaboration between Federal, state, local and private partners on challenges facing the marine transportation system in their areas.
The office in Paducah will be staffed by Chad Dorsey, the office director who already lives in Paducah with his family. Chad’s wife Elizabeth and their three sons, William, Thomas and Teddy, are here with him today to celebrate this momentous occasion. The selection process was very rigorous.
Please think of Chad as your personal direct line to the Maritime Administration. The Paducah Gateway office will share responsibility for the region which adjoins our navigable rivers. That includes 22 states. The office will expand MARAD’s communication with maritime stakeholders. And it will support our Nation’s inland ports, including those that are more rurally located.
Next, I want to say a few words about the $251,927 Marine Highway grant. It funds an 18-month demonstration of container-on-barge services across three states and three marine highways. The funds will help lease and/or purchase shore-side container handling equipment. Paducah will work in collaboration with the St. Louis Transit Authority, the Port of Louisville, the Port of Kansas City; and the U.S. Gulf Port of New Orleans.
The Paducah project is one of six grants being made by the Department through the Maritime Administration’s Marine Highway program.
And lastly, the Small Shipyard Grant to the Walker Boat Yard is part of the Small Shipyard grant program within the U. S. Department of Transportation. It will boost Paducah’s drydock capabilities. This grant was announced on July 24th and is the second small shipyard grant made to Paducah shipyards in two years. Last year, on Sept 5, 2017, a grant of more than $377,000 was made to National Maintenance and Repair of Kentucky, Inc. You might find it interesting that prior to this Administration, the most recent Small Shipyard grant was made to Paducah nearly 10 years ago! For too long, rural America has been overlooked and ignored. In this Administration, we want to make sure that rural America gets its share of needed attention.
Paducah has always been an important port on inland waterway system. With investments like the Gateway office, Marine Highway grants, and the Small Shipyard grants, it will remain an important inland waterway port in the future.
As you know, Paducah has been an important hub of trade and economic activity in settling our country. With your wonderful can-do approach, strong community spirit, and vision for greater and more vibrant economic activity, I am confident Paducah will remain a regional powerhouse into the future and I’m glad the U.S. Department of Transportation can help this community achieve its vision not only for Paducah, but the entire Commonwealth as well.
Thank you very much.