The Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) hosted its annual meeting and luncheon on Thursday, May 23 at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center with the dynamic and charismatic keynote speaker, Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed. The luncheon was composed of the Coastal Empire’s most influential and highly involved community members. The main focus of the luncheon was to recap SEDA’s productivity for the previous year and for Mayor Reed to enlightened Savannahians on the current status of the funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.
Congress voted for the Savannah harbor expansion in 1999. Mayor Reed noted in his address the funding process has made rapid progress recently despite the stumbling blocks. Last year, President Obama named Savannah among five U.S. ports singled out for expedited harbor expansions. Then the federal government issued its final permit for the project last fall. The Senate voted last week to remove a spending cap of $459 million placed on the Savannah project in 1999 – a bureaucratic obstacle that still needs approval by the House. “I’m here to tell you don’t be concerned a bit,” says Reed. “This is going to happen. We’re doing things in an orderly fashion, and we’re making real progress,” he said. Mayor Reed, Governor Deal, Congressmen Isakson and Chambliss continue to work together on the things that they agree on. Reed said “they choose cooperation over conflict.”
“Now the Water Resource Development Act, currently in the House con- tains language to authorize the spending levels needed,” said Reed.
“When that goes through, you will see things move quickly.”
Reed, who is a Democrat, told the story of him going to Washington several years ago to meet with Steve Green, a Republican and at that time Georgia Ports chairman. They talked about deepening of the harbor. When people in the administration got past the fact they were on the same page, they wondered what concern the mayor of Atlanta had with the port in Savannah. “I told them it was simple,” Reed said. “I get it.” Now, a lot other people are starting to get it as well, he said. “With Atlanta’s world class airport and Savannah’s world class port, Georgia has the potential to become the logistics hub of the Western Hemisphere,” Reed said. Reed ended his speech with a quote from the Proverbs 18:24 which states, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” In parting he said, “And always know you have a friend in me.”
Also presenting at the luncheon was SEDA board chairman David Paddison who recapped the year. The most significant change was the unanimous appointment of Trip Tollison as president and CEO.
“Trip is absolutely the right person for the job and we feel fortunate that he has agreed to lead us into the future,” Paddison said. As for the year’s accomplishments, Paddison announced the business retention team broke a SEDA record with 101 visits to existing industry.
“There is a tremendous amount of follow-up work that goes along with each meeting, sometimes going on for months. With only 252 working days a year, that is an astonishing number. And they are on track to break that in 2013,” he said.
The business attraction team worked on 58 new projects that lead to 11 announcements and expansions in 2012. Those were Arizona Chemical, Dollar Tree, Gulf States Cold Storage, Great Dane Trailers headquarters, JodyJazz, K-Machine, LMI Savannah, N.E.T., Nordic Logistics and Pallet Consultants.
In late 2012, the authority launched SEDA Innovations, an effort to attract capital investment to the region, Paddison said. SEDA has joined with the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce and the United Way to commission a workforce study that will identify strengths, weaknesses and shortfalls.
The World Trade Center Savannah, an affiliate of SEDA, had an active first year. Scott Center, vice chairman of the new organization said “Our team has hosted 49 international delegates from 17 nations, created 11 customized country and industry reports for businesses and government partners and completed in-depth research to determine five target countries and five countries of interest for our proactive marketing and sales efforts in 2013.