Another Big Year For Indiana's Ports

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Rich Cooper, pictured at the podium, is CEO of the Ports of Indiana. Rich Cooper, pictured at the podium, is CEO of the Ports of Indiana.

The chief executive officer of the Ports of Indiana calls 2017 an "exceptional year" that caps off a record four-year run. Rich Cooper believes 2018 is positioned well to be another big one that will capitalize on major developments in 2017, including South Korea-based POSCO's (NYSE: PKX) $21 million investment in southeast Indiana and California-based Metro Ports launching a major operation in northwest Indiana.

He also cites additional expansions in the works at the Jeffersonville and Burns Harbor ports. The Port of Indiana Mount Vernon recorded its highest-ever shipping total in 2017 and future success, Cooper tells Inside INdiana Business, will be bolstered by the statewide system's diversity.

"The beauty of having three ports is it's almost like your financial portfolio, where if one of your stocks or bonds is not performing the way it should, you hope you've picked another one that could step in and maybe fill the void and that's the beauty of our three ports with the diverse cargo mixes we have," Copper said.

The system handled 11.8 million tons in 2017, a 5 percent increase over 2016, making it the second-highest annual shipment total since the organization was launched 57 years ago. From 2014-2017, more than 45 million tons were shipped, which outdid the previous four-year average by almost 50 percent.

Cooper says port officials should know more about the next stages of a potential fourth port within six months. The state last year signed a purchase agreement for 725 acres along the Ohio River between Lawrenceburg and Aurora at a former coal plant site. Cooper says work is underway to figure out how much of the property can be used. Because of its previous purpose, Cooper calls the land "very challenged," saying extensive testing and fact-finding will determine if the first new state port since 1985 will be built there.

The Port of Indiana Mount Vernon recorded its highest-ever shipping total in 2017 and future success, Ports of Indiana CEO Rich Cooper tells Inside INdiana Business, will be bolstered by the statewide system's diversity.
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