The Port of Muskegon is West Michigan’s largest, natural deepwater port, and according to a recent economic impact report,
with proper development, marketing and promotion, it has the potential to create 1,700 jobs and more than $280 million in annual economic activity that reaches throughout West Michigan.
That was the gist of Port Day, an event organized and hosted by the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission (WMSRDC), the Muskegon County Port Advisory Committee and the West Michigan Prosperity Alliance (WMPA)
with the intention to introduce the port’s potential to local and regional stakeholders and build a collaborative network in order to advance the vision of the port becoming a multi-modal regional logistics hub and capturing the economic value forecasted in the report.
“There are a lot of moving parts” before this vision can become a reality, says WMSRDC Executive Director Erin Kuhn, but she is very optimistic that the port has the potential to be a significant economic engine for West Michigan. “The greater community does not realize the assets around Muskegon Lake and the port,” Kuhn says. “We have access to shipping, an airport, rail and the highways. And the commercial capacities are often underutilized.”
Kuhn notes the recent interest in the Port of Muskegon is directly related to the closing of the Consumers Energy plant in Muskegon. In order to have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continue to dredge the channel, the tonnage of coal that was shipped for use by Consumers Energy would be need to be replaced. To address this, the local business community came together and began asking questions: How do they diversify? How do they overcome this issue?
The answer quickly became evident: cooperation. Diversifying the use of the port would require the coordination of the private sector and local, regional, state, and federal governments.
When the WMPA (an organization that was formed in January 2014 as part of Gov. Rick Snyder’s Regional Prosperity Initiative) issued a call for projects in October 2014, a proposal was created by local leaders, and the Port of Muskegon was selected as the number one regional project.
With this recognition, the project was moved from a local level to a regional one, and The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission took a lead role in securing state and federal grants and is developing a plan to advance the port as a regional logistics hub.
For more information about this initiative please visit http://wmsrdc.org/port-day
The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission is a planning and development agency serving 120 local governments from Lake, Mason, Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana Counties. The Commission works to foster regional development in West Michigan through various services and programs.
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor