By CHIRS PRINGLE, State Representative, R-Mobile
We have a real opportunity to invest in Alabama’s future and create economic opportunity for coming generations. However, investing in our future means making some tough decisions now. The Rebuilding Alabama plan, while far from perfect, will move our state forward in the long-term.
The Port of Mobile is the primary reason I voted to support this plan. Our Port is one of the most important economic drivers for my district and all of South Alabama. It is also critical to our entire state’s economy. The port supports over 130,000 jobs and contributes over $22 billion to Alabama’s economy every year. When factoring the impact to the overall transportation ecosystem, those numbers rise to 150,000 jobs and a $25 billion economic impact.
The Port has driven our economy for over 100 years, but we now find ourselves at a crossroad. We can lead or we can fall behind. I believe we should lead and that is why we must deepen and expand the port as soon as possible. Miami has already deepened its port. Charleston and Savannah are deepening their ports. New Orleans has begun to study the issue. If we deepen the Port of Mobile now, it will become the first Gulf of Mexico port to expand its ship channel. We would become one of only two southeastern ports that can accommodate the largest carrier vessels in use today.
This isn’t just about remaining competitive. It is also about protecting what we have. As more seaports are able to accommodate the largest container vessels, there will be consolidation in the industry. Once we deepen the channel, we will be uniquely positioned to withstand this consolidation and outlast our competition. The time is now to deepen Mobile’s port and extend the viability of this economic engine for another 100 years.
Now, thanks to Senator Shelby’s work in Washington and the Rebuilding Alabama plan, we have an opportunity to get this done quickly.
Senator Shelby has secured a commitment from the federal government that will match the state’s 25 percent investment with the remaining 75 percent. That is huge and an achievement that cannot be understated. We must seize this opportunity while we have the chance.
That is where the Rebuilding Alabama plan comes into play. It will generate an additional $320 million annually to invest in Alabama’s infrastructure. Of that total, nearly $12 million per year will be committed specifically to deepen and expanding the port, covering the state’s 25 percent investment. This is a path to immediate success. Port expansion work would start in 2020 and be completed in just three years.
The Rebuilding Alabama plan can get this done with minimal pain. The fuel levy has not been changed in over 25 years. A 10-cent increase may sound like a lot, but there are several factors to consider. Trucking companies using Alabama roads, and out of state tourists visiting our cities and beaches, will be investing more to help maintain those roads. The cost increase for an average Alabamian is just $4.58 per month.
Consider also the overall return on investment. For our district alone, it will mean $6.4 million in infrastructure work every year. It will mean new jobs and increased economic opportunity in Mobile and all of South Alabama.
I was elected to do what is right, not what is politically expedient. Sometimes that means making tough decisions. Choosing to support the Rebuilding Alabama plan was a difficult decision, and ultimately, Senator Shelby, Governor Ivey, and Mayor Stimpson are right: expanding the port is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. I stand with them.
As the parent of a high school senior, it is important to me that my son and his generation have opportunities to come back to Mobile – or other parts of Alabama – and build the lives for themselves that they want. This plan is a long-term investment in our state and our children’s future. It is all about doing everything we can to make Alabama one of the best places in the country to live, work, and raise a family.
State Rep. Chris Pringle is a Republican who represents Alabama’s 101st District.