Friday, August 13, 2010

Widening of Panama Canal could benefit Owensboro's ports

The $5.2 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, expected to be completed in 2014, "will fundamentally change world commerce," the president of Kentuckians for Better Transportation said Wednesday.

Stan Lampe told the Green River Area Development District's board of directors that in the past shipments from Asia were placed in containers, shipped to the West Coast and then sent by rail to the Midwest and East Coast.

But a new lane of traffic will be opened in the Panama Canal in four years with a new set of locks, which will double the canal's capacity and allow more traffic and longer, wider ships.

Cargo from Asia will then be able to pass through the canal and unload along the Gulf Coast onto smaller vessels that will take the containers up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, he said.

"This area of the state is prepared and ready for it," Lampe said. "In Owensboro, you have both private and public ports. That's a good thing. Container cargo is coming to your doorstep very soon. That's nothing but good for you."

"Anyone who waits until 2014 to start on this will probably be left behind," Ed Riney, president of the Owensboro Riverport, said later.

The port has been discussing building a slackwater harbor -- an inland channel for unloading barges -- for a container cargo operation for several years.

Riney said the port has completed several studies on what it would need to do to build a slackwater harbor and where to do it. And a preliminary design of the harbor is in the works.

But cost is an important factor, he said.

A slackwater harbor is likely to cost $20 million or more, Riney said. But such a harbor could handle up to six barges at a time, rather than handling one barge at a time on the river.

"But I don't know if we can afford it," Riney said.

The way the riverport envisions the system is barges could bring in containers and repackage the products there. Then, the repackaged product could be shipped by rail, truck or air.

Owensboro could become "a key intermodal hub for cargo," Riney said last year.

"It's far-fetched at this point, but the potential of containers is very significant for economic development," he said at the time.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

OMHS, U of L receive Funding for Researcher in Plant Therapeutics

The Owensboro Cancer Research Program will be receiving more than $4 million in funds from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and Kentucky's Bucks for Brains program to expand research faculty in plant made pharmaceuticals.

The University of Louisville announced Thursday morning that it received a $3.15 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to support the UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center and cancer research taking place in Owensboro. That grant will be paired with the state funding to total $4.5 million for the Owensboro Cancer Research Program, according to a UofL press release.

"This funding will continue to support Owensboro's efforts to be the world center of plant therapeutics used in the treatment of diseases like cancer and HIV," said U of L president Jim Ramsey at a news conference in Owensboro. "The funding from the Helmsley Trust and Bucks for Brains will enable U of L to leverage the world's best talent in the plant pharmaceutical industry in Owensboro, Kentucky."

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

EDC Addressing Lack of 3G Coverage in Owensboro

Owensboro and Daviess County have been left behind when it comes to having competitive wireless broadband access. Our lack of third-generation (3G) service from AT&T has put us in a very troubling position and if a solution is not found soon it could have an impact on our local and regional economies.

AT&T says that it now offers 3G service in more than 370 metropolitan areas around the United States. Owensboro is one of the largest metro areas in the US without 3G wireless coverage. The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation is requesting that AT&T, the FCC and our Congressional delegation to help us solve this problem.

Access to fast, reliable and affordable 3G service is absolutely essential in today’s competitive marketplace. Local businesses such as US Bank, organizations like the Owensboro Medical Health System, and Owensboro’s new high tech incubator, the Centre for Business and Research, desperately need the service to expand and grow their operations.

We strongly believe in regional economic development, but this is difficult when we are not on the same playing field as our partners in greater Evansville-Henderson-Madisonville, all of which have 3G coverage. The lack of coverage in Owensboro and Daviess County compared to our regional partners is stark and very disconcerting.

The EDC has asked AT&T why Owensboro and Daviess County have been left behind and we’ve learned that they are as frustrated as we are. It seems that the FCC ordered AT&T to divest the wireless spectrum to support 3G that it owned in this area as part of a recent merger agreement. Now, AT&T is stuck trying to buy new spectrum on the open market from a competitor, which is never easy.

It seems that our lack of 3G service is an unintended consequence of the federal government forcing AT&T to divest its spectrum.

With the growing use of wireless technologies for devices like the iPhone and iPad, 3G wireless is now a bare minimum quality of life issue. The EDC respectfully requests that the FCC and AT&T resolve their spectrum issues and promptly bring 3G coverage to Owensboro.

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