Lewisburg courting Gulf ports

Friday, March 9, 2012
Tribune photo by Clint Confehr Lewisburg Gas Department General Manager LeRoy Mullis, left, makes a point while speaking with Mike Wiles, right, executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board in Marshall County.

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

City economic developers have made their pitch to Mobile Port Authority leaders saying when they're ready to receive bigger ships coming through the Panama Canal, then the Interstate 65 Commerce Park on Mooresville Highway is a logical place to send merchandise into the heart of America.

That's what Lewisburg Economic Developer Greg Lowe explained on Tuesday to the city's Industrial Development Board, adding that he and other city leaders plan to make the same pitch to the New Orleans Port Authority in the coming weeks. It's another step in an aggressive and proactive campaign to create a business friendly environment that will result in more job opportunities here.

During the trip to Mobile, Ala., Lowe said Port Authority officials provided contacts to other people who might be able to help Lewisburg attract businesses that could hire area residents.

One contact drives to Nashville quite often and Lowe suggested that he stop in Lewisburg on the way.

Mobile Port Authority officials are trying to increase exports, too.

Former Marshall County Commissioner Joe B. Brandon, a retired official with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said Mobile will be a larger port than New Orleans.

It's difficult to get big ships into New Orleans and Mobile's Port Authority purchased 400 acres for expansion.

In what could be a related discussion in the Historic First Avenue Building, IDB directors further explored the prospect of having a natural gas fueling station established by the Lewisburg Gas Department. LGD General Manager LeRoy Mullis attended the monthly IDB meeting where officials indicated the most logical first use of natural gas as a fuel for internal combustion engines would be in truck fleets.

The point had been made separately by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander when he visited the GM plant at Spring Hill for a ceremony to restart the vehicle assembly line.

Craig Blackwell, public relations man for LGD, announced that on April 4, natural gas utilities will take their case to Nashville where they'll hold an event to promote natural gas as a fuel for business fleets maintained by businesses such as UPS, AT&T, GM, and others.

"Waste Management has a lot of their vehicles on natural gas," Blackwell said.

Mullis said an elementary natural gas filling system costs about $20,000. Filling a tank could take several hours.