Special to the Illinois Business Journal
Wanting to leverage a key access point on the Mississippi River and a central location for U.S. distribution, legislators passed a law on April 1, 1959, to form America’s Central Port, a special purpose unit of government that operates within its own means without collecting tax revenue.
Centrally located in Granite City, with access to four U.S. interstates, six Class-I railroads, 30 miles of rail, two multi-modal harbors, warehousing, and 100 acres of development-ready land, the port serves as an asset for manufacturers across the food, fiber, and energy supply chains. Today the port’s tenants provide 900 full-time jobs and an annual economic impact of $282 million on the local economy.
Viewing transportation and logistics as key to maintaining a competitive edge in global markets, advancements in river, rail, and road infrastructure are among America’s Central Port’s top priorities to attract new tenants.
The 60-year-old port transports $1.1 billion in freight annually.
“America’s Central Port plays an essential role in bringing jobs and direct investment to the region,” said Mary Lamie, executive director of the St. Louis Regional Freightway. The development is the northernmost lock and ice free river port and is “one of the most strategically located assets in the region for the entire freight industry.”
James Alexander, senior vice president of economic development at the St. Louis Regional Chamber, called the port “a great partner. … They continue to do a phenomenal job in helping establish relationships to bring outside investment to the region.”
Tim Nowak, executive director of World Trade Center St. Louis, noted the attraction to international interests.
“America’s Central Port is a momentous driver in attracting foreign investment to the region. Its central location, abundance of Class I rail-served space, river access, and multimodal capabilities makes the port one of the region’s greatest assets to reach international markets,” Nowak said.
The port area has played host to some key updates in the last few years, including the 2016 opening of the $50 million intermodal Madison Harbor, infrastructure improvements to increase the lifetime of various port facilities, and multiple rail expansion projects including a 1,500-foot rail spur installed in November 2018 to serve a 60-acre development-ready site for prospective tenants.
Looking ahead, other projects include:
- Renovations to a 6,500-square-foot former steam plant, a 42,000-square-foot former U.S. Army locomotive maintenance bay, and the addition of a rail spur and dump pit for a harbor bulk storage building. The total project cost is $3.27 million and the work should start this summer. The work is being financed by the U.S. Economic Development Agency.
- Granite City Harbor Dock Surface Improvements (this will make last mile trans-loading more efficient at this particular harbor). The total project cost is $1,367,130, with an estimated start date of this summer. The granting agency is the Illinois Department of Transportation.
- New right-in/right-out highway entrance to the port. The total cost is $2,000,340 and the work will be financed through IDOT with a start date of summer 2020.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
More than two years ago, when the new chancellor came to town, one of his stated missions was making sure Southern Illinois University Edwardsville shared more resources with the surrounding community.
Do better by the community, reasoned Randy Pembrook, and you’ll do more for the students.
The man who chaired the chancellor search committee, Gireesh Gupchup, who was then-dean of the School of Pharmacy, spent a lot of time with Pembrook and frequently heard the message about community inclusion. Gupchup didn’t know it at the time, but events were about to create an avenue for him to become one of the chief stewards of the chancellor’s concept.
Things began to take shape last year, after Gupchup asked to step down as dean of the pharmacy school to spend more time with family. His plan was to go back to teaching, at the very least.
Pembrook had something more in mind.
“Randy said, ‘If you step down, you can’t just do nothing’,” Gupchup recalls. The men put their heads together and a natural idea developed to take advantage of Gupchup’s community capabilities. Gupchup, who arrived at the school in 2010, has developed a host of contacts outside the university while working to place pharmacy students in community settings.
Eager to help Pembrook, Gupchup last year was named director of University-Community Initiatives. He’s now part of a group that is reaching into the community at an unprecedented level.
Working closely with him are two others who are key to the overall goals: Mary Ettling, associate director of the Office of Educational Outreach; and Connie Frey Spurlock, director of the university’s Successful Communities Collaborative, which is supported by the Office of Educational Outreach.
The Collaborative is a relatively new, cross-disciplinary program that supports one-year partnerships between the university and communities in Illinois to work on local issues based on community-identified needs.
The Collaborative’s mission is to connect the communities with the students and faculty of SIUE. Essentially, a town presents the university with an issue, and the students, through their coursework, address the problem.
The Collaborative uses the framework of a program started at the University of Oregon.
During a pilot phase that began in 2017, the Collaborative worked with the cities of Highland and Godfrey. Later, it began working with Alton on a series of projects. Gupchup joined the efforts about that time.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
The local chamber of commerce is typically the host of countless ribbon cuttings, networking sessions, breakfast meetings and activities around which the business community likes to gather.
But with some extra effort, chamber representatives can also become a symbol of professionalism and a bastion of excellence.
The Edwardsville/Glen Carbon Chamber of Commerce falls into the category “all of the above” after last month officially receiving 5-Star Accreditation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It’s an honor bestowed upon a relative few chamber organizations and comes after years of local efforts.
“I still feel kind of numb. I knew we had submitted the best package we possible could, but in talking to CEOs around the country it’s almost unheard of to receive five stars on your first try,” said Desiree Bennyhoff, CEO and president of the Ed/Glen Chamber.
The timing on the announcement was fortuitous, coming Tuesday, March 5 — just in time to be shared with a packed house of 300 people who attended the chamber’s annual gala just two evenings later.
“We are in a community that strives for excellence. For us, we knew that we were doing some really great things, but the third-party validation was a really big deal,” she said.
Bennyhoff has lived and breathed the application process for more than five years. However, the process leading up to the research began even before that.
It started in 2013, when Bob McClellan, the retired head of Hortica insurance company in Edwardsville, accepted the role of strategic planning facilitator for the chamber. He interviewed about 50 business heads locally and developed a plan that led the chamber to decide that it needed to be more involved in advocacy, rather than simple networking.
“We needed to be the voice of business,” Bennyhoff said. “The culmination of our strategic plan was submitting for U.S. Chamber of Commerce accreditation.”
Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s largest mass tort litigation firms, is proud to announce the induction of Shareholder Jayne Conroy into the National Trial Lawyers Association’s “Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame.”
The National Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame honors exceptional trial lawyers who have exceeded the expectations of the public and their peers by clearly establishing themselves through their practice as true champions and crusaders for justice. Each year, the Hall of Fame recognizes and honors attorneys – both past and present – who have left an indelible mark on the legal community. Prior to the 2019 class of inductees, only 63 attorneys across the country have been added to the Hall of Fame. Conroy will be only the eighth woman to receive the honor.