People tend to think of ports as locations along an ocean, but to experts in the logistics industry, a port is any place that two types of transportation — say, railroads and highways — converge to allow the movement of freight from one mode of transportation to another. By that definition, Northern Nevada has abundant potential sites for inland ports to handle the shipping containers used in global trade. They create an important opportunity for us to provide good-paying jobs and continue building our region’s economy.
Best of all, some of the large tracts of vacant land that are among the most attractive locations for inland ports are found near smaller communities. Those communities would welcome new employment and economic diversification.
Creation of inland port facilities in Nevada, however, has been hamstrung by red tape and a slow-moving approval process that requires the involvement of state agencies as well as local government. State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) recently introduced legislation, SB 298, that would streamline the approval process. It would provide greater flexibility for new inland ports to be created either by private companies or public agencies — or maybe even by public-private partnerships.
Once an inland port is created, it’s used by shippers that are able to transfer some of the tasks that traditionally are completed at ocean ports. For instance, the work that’s involved in receiving merchandise, clearing customs, loading and unloading shipping containers or preparing merchandise for further shipment all could be completed at an inland port. This allows the shipper to avoid the costly congestion and delays that are growing at locations such as the Port of Long Beach in Southern California.
But the economic opportunities don’t end there for nearby communities. Often, major retailers will build their own distribution facilities at or near an inland port. This creates even more opportunities for new jobs in warehousing, logistics and transportation. Northern Nevada already is known throughout the U.S. as an excellent location for distribution facilities. Orders fulfilled at our region’s distribution facilities can reach nearly every major city in the West within a day. The addition of international trade to this mix only can strengthen the region’s presence as a logistics hub.
The region already has the transportation infrastructure in place to support an inland port without big investments of public money for new roads. Northern Nevada offers employers a pool of highly skilled logistics professionals. The entire state provides a business climate that fosters economic growth. In short, our communities are well-positioned to support creation of inland port facilities, and we welcome the new jobs and economic diversification that inland ports would provide.
Now we need the help of our state lawmakers to create a sensible framework to allow for the creation of inland port locations without burdensome and unnecessary red tape. Kieckhefer’s proposed legislation is an important step toward building Nevada’s position as a center of international trade. And it’s an important step, as well, toward strengthening our communities.
Roy Edgington, Jr., is the mayor of Fernley.