Bryan Hatcher, Star Beacon
Federal, state and local officials gathered at Conneaut’s port on Monday afternoon to celebrate an increase in international shipping.
The Conneaut Port Authority was one of eight Great Lakes ports to receive the Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter award for increasing registered international shipping from 2019 to 2020, according to a press release from the Great Lakes Saint Lawrence Development Corporation.
U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Russell Township), whose district includes all of Ashtabula County, said at the event that Conneaut doubled its international shipping tonnage in 2020, over 2019.
“To say that Conneaut’s international port is critical to our regional economy would be an understatement,” Joyce said. “It’s one of the most frequented ports on Lake Erie.”
Joyce congratulated the Conneaut Port Authority on the award, and commended the Port Authority and Canadian National for the hard work they have put into the area.
Joyce said he will continue to work to provide the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the resources to fund dredging of northeast Ohio’s ports.
After the event, Joyce said the port is very deserving of the award. Port Authority Chairman George Peterson and City Manager Jim Hockaday are constantly speaking about the benefits of Conneaut’s ports, Joyce said.
“Now it’s a matter of attracting industry to meet it,” Joyce said.
Craig Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, said this is Conneaut’s first Pacesetter award.
“I’ve done a lot of Pacesetter awards in my time, and frankly, not one of them has had a view as good as this one,” Middlebrook said.
The Pacesetter award was developed to help local communities understand that ports are an integral part of the local economy, Middlebrook said.
“Too few people not directly involved with the port and its activities realize how important maritime ports are to sustaining their quality of life,” he said.
Middlebrook highlighted the $19.5 million grant awarded to the city to help fund the construction of a rail spur to the city’s industrial park, and the extension of a road down to the port.
“This port has so much potential given its location and its access to top-drawer rail and highway intermodal connections,” Middlebrook said. “Few ports can boast as much.”
Earning the Pacesetter award does not happen by luck, he said.
Conneaut Council President Jon Arcaro said a public-private partnership is what is required to improve the port. He thanked everyone involved in the revitalization of the port.