Paducah's geography makes it one of the most sought-after riverports to move the goods and services your family depends on. More than 100 million tons of cargo flows through the western part of the state on the Ohio River every year.
A new announcement Wednesday in Washington, DC, could mean well-paying jobs may make their way here, too.
It was five years in the making.
The Paducah McCracken County riverport is now designated a marine highway port, meaning the federal government endorses our river industry. That classification could lead to manufacturing jobs and include distribution centers so companies can make and store their products in western Kentucky.
Bill Miller is thinking of what's yet to come for the riverport. "It would be attractive for most companies," he says.
As the executive director of the Paducah-McCracken County Riverport, Miller is an advocate for economic development. Wednesday he learned the port has the backing of the Department of Transportation, which means growth is coming.
"We're hoping to attract outside jobs — manufacturing distribution jobs — into the region to help the employment," Miller says.
The Marine Highway designation allows the port to apply for federal grants and opens the river to other parts of the country.
"By having a container on Barge here in Paducah, it will allow people to manufacture and store their products products here while they are being made and distributed out," Miller says. "We see your community as being the crossroads of the waterways in the heartland."
Lauren Brand is a marine highway administrator. She says the designation is fitting because of Paducah's location and accessibility.
"The population projections for 2050 shows you're going to be able to support the projected population boom and that part of the country," Brand says.
Miller says Paducah's location would speed up delivery times, connecting to ports in Canada, the east and west coast and to the Gulf. "Paducah becomes a main attraction in my opinion for a company looking to manufacture and import," he says.
Miller did not have a timetable for when those projects or distribution centers would be built, but he did say there are companies, including big box stores that are interested in possibly building here.
I asked him what those companies are. He didn't tell me, but said he is in talks with several.
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