By David Pendered
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is to leave Monday to meet with Panama President Ricardo Martelli and tour the Panama Canal expansion with Sen. Johnny Isakson and Vice President Joe Biden.
The mayor’s participation in the economic development trip was announced Friday, as discussion continues over the decision by the Atlanta Braves to move to Cobb County. The duration of the trip was not included in the announcement.
The trip comes right after Gov. Nathan Deal announced his plans to provide an additional $35 million in state funding for the proposed deepening of the Savannah port. The deepening is needed to handle the larger vessels expected to transit the bigger Panama Canal.
Reed has lobbied the Obama administration strenuously for the Savannah deepening project. The mayor said in a statement:
- “Groundbreaking on this project is within sight. Getting a final bill to the president needs to be a priority for Congress. I am honored to be included in the bi-partisan delegation to Panama which sends a strong signal that leaders from both sides of the aisle are committed to strengthening America’s infrastructure.”
In a statement released Friday, Isakson said:
“I am proud to join Vice President Biden and Mayor Reed next week at the Panama Canal to see the Panama Expansion Project firsthand and to learn more about the project as it relates to the Savannah Harbor. I applaud the administration for placing a high priority on U.S. ports. I am particularly excited as it pertains to the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, as it is critically important to the state of Georgia, southeast region and nation and will support hundreds of thousands of jobs each year while generating billions in revenue. I will continue to work with the White House, the state of Georgia and Congress to see this project through to its completion.”
The statement issued by Reed continued:
- “This trip marks a key milestone in our work to prepare for the expansion of the Panama Canal by deepening the Port of Savannah. The port deepening will be Georgia’s largest economic development project and the positive impact on Atlanta cannot be overstated. The project will fuel the state, region and city’s economic growth, strengthen our global competitiveness and accelerate Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s expansion as a leading logistics and cargo hub.”
Deal said Wednesday at the annual State of the Ports luncheon, in Atlanta, that he intends to include the additional $35 million for the deepening project in the FY 2015 budget he will present in January to the Georgia Legislature.
If the Legislature concurs, as it traditionally has supported funds for developing the state’s ports, Georgia will have set aside $266 million for the deepening project.
In Washington, the House and Senate have approved separate bills providing for the nation’s water infrastructure.
According to the city’s statement, the delegation includes:
- U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx;
- U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schulz (D-Fl) whose district includes portions of south Florida’s Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and who chairs the Democratic National Committee.
- Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter;
- Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
According to the city’s statement:
- “This trip follows a September meeting where Mayor Reed and state leaders joined Vice President Biden at the Port of Savannah to highlight the importance of infrastructure investments in the United States to improve America’s competitiveness, strengthen the middle class, and grow our economy.”