Thank you for the opportunity to comment in the online Port of Cleveland Forum. This forum is an excellent tool to share opinions regarding the Port and the benefits it brings to our area. I wish I had known about this platform earlier to provide the link to many other stakeholders who would like to have commented. And to that point, my first suggestion is that the Port creates an ongoing blog similar to exchange to continue the interactive process between the stakeholders but include distinct categories (e.g., port business and economics, regional development, recreational development, etc.). This would greatly help to align stakeholders within their individual subject areas and those areas can then be merged into the broader planning process.
I am a regional stakeholder in three different capacities (perspectives): Port and Shipping Development (business consultant for ARCADIS), recreational boating (United States Power Squadrons Ohio Liaison for the Government and Partner Relations Group), and environmental stewardship (Lake Erie Improvement Association, Ohio Sea Grant, and several others) and I would like to share some thoughts within each of these areas.
Port and Shipping Development:
I personally believe that Great Lakes Shipping is the quickest, most valuable, and surest option we have to create jobs and grow our economy in Northeast Ohio. At $14+ billion per year, Ontario is Ohio’s largest trading partner and with the post-Panamax expansion, short-sea container shipping from the St. Lawrence into Lake Erie could take us higher yet to another trade plateau. However, I don’t think these concepts are totally understood by the regional stakeholders and/or voters. I think they need to be presented (and reaffirmed) to the public in simpler, open dialogue with more emphasis through today’s preferred communication modes (e.g. Facebook, blogs, YouTube, public addresses, etc.). I also think this subject should be made one of Lt. Governor Mary Taylor’s Common Sense Initiatives as it benefits Ohio and not just Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. State support would go a long way to helping the cause and this should be highest priority.
I also have read the Port of Cleveland Strategic Plan and have stayed current of the shipping issues through the Great Lakes Carrier Association and Great Lakes Maritime Task Force. I think Port President Will Friedman, Glen Nekvasil and Jim Weakley and all of their staffs have developed some excellent materials that clearly define the benefits of enhancing our port, why shipping is economically important to Ohio, and the current challenges (e.g. dredging, water levels, etc.). Within each of the reports, there are numerous information graphics that give an excellent glimpse of the issues, challenges, and benefits. I think they could be pulled together as a comprehensive pictograph vision on line to demonstrate the public benefit and align direction without the need for each stakeholder to read each report in detail in order to understand the issues. We need to dredge the port and grow our shipping industry.
Recreational Boating and Fishing:
Recreational boaters and fisherman have pumped more than $3 billion into the local economy based on 2007 numbers. Yet, the development of the Cleveland waterfront routinely only mentions parks, restaurants (bars), and entertainment. For example, at fisherman attending a large Walleye tournament in western Lake Erie would fill several hotels and just a small one last weekend saw over 150 boats in the Huron River. Similarly, large cruising clubs such as the Great Lakes Cruising Club could bring well over 100 boaters to Cleveland if there were sufficient transient docks to view the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Science Center, the Mather, the Cod, Browns Stadium, and other downtown sites, but transient docks are not available at North Coast Harbor. Parks and wildlife areas are great, but we need to include recreational boaters and fishermen into the planning process. Boaters and fisherman have a lot of clout as stakeholder groups and could help to drive the port growth process if they feel there will be amenities planned to support their activities.
The environmental advocacies are thrilled with wildlife areas such as Dike 14 and would like to go a step further in promoting long-term environmental stewardship in the port harbor front development. There are mixed design using approaches capable of providing low eco-risk sediment management and development while providing for growth of wildlife habitat would greatly benefit both the port and the environmental stakeholders. These techniques have been successfully used in other areas of the country but have not garnered support in Ohio as both environmental and port stakeholders have not worked together to develop the mixed design and present these in unity to OEPA and ODNR for consideration. Both sides are concerned about compromising their goals, however, without each other’s’ support, nothing will be accomplished. More time and effort needs to go into educating and aligning our stakeholder groups with the goal of developing sustainable objectives. What good is a wildlife area if no one has a job? If we wish to grow the port harbor front, we must work together to develop true sustainable objectives and then promote these together to the public and the regulatory agencies in order to obtain public support.
I would welcome any of your comments or would be available to discuss these in more detail.