What is the Wisconsin Commercial Ports Development Initiative?

A coalition of 10 public and private organizations are working together to encourage more businesses throughout the Midwest to utilize Wisconsin’s 29 commercial ports and harbors to ship freight. The marks the first joint effort to increase awareness of the advantages of using the state’s ports as a means to deliver freight around the world, and to advocate for development of the state’s ports and waterways.

Why is it important to promote increased usage of the state’s ports?

Wisconsin ports generate more than $1.6 billion in economic activity and support almost 10,000 jobs. While more than $2.4 billion of goods are shipped annually through the ports, that figure represents less than 5 percent of the state’s total freight volume. That means Wisconsin’s ports have the potential to play even a more significant role in our economy.

How can increased usage of the state’s ports promote sustainability?

Increasing maritime freight movement will provide economic, social and environmental benefits by supporting a safe, efficient, integrated multimodal transportation system in Wisconsin. Using ships to transport goods supports environmental sustainability by moving more freight with less fuel, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves air quality. It also helps reduce highway congestion and increase the capacity of the transportation network in Wisconsin, in the Midwest and across the United States.

What steps will members of the initiative take to increase awareness of the importance of the ports?

The first step in the initiative was the completion of the state’s first-ever study of the strengths of the Wisconsin’s commercial port system. This report includes a port infrastructure and business inventory, and a market and commodity assessment. The study also includes an analysis of how the state’s institutions, programs and policies affect port development.

Armed with that information, the coalition will develop a strategy to help increase the utilization of the state’s ports through various efforts, including increasing awareness and advocacy for port and waterway development; increasing market share of marine-capable commodities; and increasing the level of cooperation needed to further develop Wisconsin’s marine presence and network. The coalition may look at ways to diversify the type of cargo shipped through the ports. Currently, almost all of the tonnage moved through the Great Lakes Ports consists of just six commodities, while the tonnage at the Mississippi River ports primarily consists of just four commodities.

Which organizations are part of the initiative?

The Wisconsin Commercial Ports Development Initiative is a collaboration between the Wisconsin Commercial Ports Association; the National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education; the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute; the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation; and the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. Additional support is provided by Brown County, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association.

(April 2015)