Escanaba could become shipping hub

Michigan State Roundup

Published March 1, 2004  | March 2004 issue

The city of Escanaba, aiming to become a player in the world marketplace, announced plans in late December to develop an international port.

The project is still in early phases and would begin with the establishment of a port authority to oversee all modes of transportation. City officials await the findings of a feasibility study being conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers, but Escanaba is considered an ideal location for a deep-water shipping port.

Two companies are interested in investing in the project and have submitted proposals to the city. The companies have not been named yet, but the city said one business is interested in developing a Great Lakes shipbuilding facility and the other is a Michigan firm representing Chinese clients.

Funding for the port is expected to come largely from those businesses and from other prospective users. Estimates of the total cost of the project are not available.

The proposed site of the port is an area currently used for industrial purposes. It includes a coal yard and shipping and rail operations, and the land would have to be purchased from the companies now using it. The project would include the construction of a warehouse, manufacturing facilities and a marine terminal with three large piers on Lake Michigan.

City officials say the port might make Escanaba a distribution center for the surrounding region and open up global markets for the city. They estimate the port itself could create 500 jobs in shipping, administration and manufacturing, but they also anticipate some spinoff benefits.

The mayor and city manager have met with a law firm that handles port authority establishment to hammer out the details. They expect the port authority will be largely self-supporting and independent of the city government.

Joe Mahon