Port of Chicago and shipping have a promising new future

Given consistent funding, the port can realize its full potential as a force for job creation, economic development and tax generation.

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Chicago’s Ghost Ship, the C.T.C. 1 — a 620-foot freighter — has sat alongside grain silos since 1982.

Chicago’s Ghost Ship, the C.T.C. 1 — a 620-foot freighter — is scheduled to be hauled away from the Port of Chicago, where it has sat alongside grain silos since 1982.

Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

I write to commend you for your recent recognition of the important role that the Port of Chicago plays in the city’s infrastructure. And to second your recommendation that the port receive “sustained and consistent funding” to realize its full potential as a force for job creation, economic development and tax generation.

The timing now is especially important in light of advances made over the last eight years to dramatically shore up the Illinois International Port District’s finances and operations.

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Eight years ago, the district was in dire financial condition. From 2009 to 2011, the district operated at a loss every year, up to $1.1 million annually. Even the Harborside golf complex lost millions of dollars in that same period. By 2011, the district’s long-term debt was over $40 million — staggering numbers given the agency has only a $5 million budget.

This challenging financial position was reflected in the port’s capital investment — or more precisely, the lack thereof. It had not undertaken any substantial capital projects since 1981.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel made it a priority to address this. So we undertook a complete overhaul of how the port does business, including: commissioning a study of the port’s place in the nation’s logistics network and its competitive landscape; recruiting a professional golf management company to run Harborside; and taking the unprecedented step of requesting an audit by the Illinois auditor general.

The results were significant. We cut the district’s long-term debt by more than two-thirds and operated at a profit, generating more than $1.2 million over the last two years. Under private management, Harborside now generates roughly $400,000 annually. We used these improved financial results to fund long-delayed investment and maintenance and to pay down debt.

Given this new financial stability, the port is finally in a position to move forward in order to compete with the other ports in the region. The experts who have looked at the Port of Chicago largely agree — its location gives it enormous potential, but it will take very substantial investment to realize that potential.

It is essential that the city and state provide the funds necessary to do so.

Michael K. Forde
Chairman of the Illinois International Port District Board from 2011 to 2019

Don’t let industry poison the Great Lakes

The recent revelations of possible criminal environmental behavior on the part of steel maker ArcelorMittal, accused of cheating on toxicity tests, should concern every person and government in the Great Lakes region. The lakes, the source of our drinking water, should be treated preciously and carefully. Yet industrial criminals are allowed to get away with essentially poisoning us.

It’s time to wake up and penalize those who would willfully pollute our region’s most important natural resource — the Great Lakes!

Dennis Allen, Wilmette

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