By Sally Voth
Spreading the word about the economic value of having one of Virginia's ports right in Warren County is the main focus of a reactivated committee of shippers, businesses, transportation companies and economic development leaders.
The Virginia Inland Port Advisory Council met Wednesday morning at the Winchester Road, Front Royal facility.
"This is re-igniting a committee that used to operate with the Virginia Port Advisory Council," said Devon Anders, who attended Wednesday's public meeting. "It's basically to promote communication and ideas regarding all the stakeholders of the inland port."
Anders is with InterChange, a third-party logistics company that has a warehouse on Toray Drive near the inland port.
The Port of Virginia, which includes the inland port as well as ports in Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond, has been quite active of late, according to Cary Hagen, director of North American sales for Virginia International Terminals, the inland port's operating affiliate.
"It's really been hitting on all cylinders," he said. "The port has done quite well this year. This entire year, just about every month has been positive growth. In August, it was the largest year-to-year gain in the history of the port -- grew about 25 percent in terms of container volume.
"[The committee] is about engaging all the stakeholders at the inland port to help grow the business, to raise awareness and to get feedback from stakeholders on what we can do to make things better there."
Container turnaround times at the inland report were less than 20 minutes, compared to about 45 minutes in Norfolk, Anders said.
"There's a tremendous amount of growth capacity at the inland port and really with the whole Virginia port system," he said.
Norfolk Southern operates rail service to and from Norfolk five days a week, which means fewer trucks leaving the port city, Anders said.
"The inland port, it obviously gets a lot of environmental kudos because you're moving a lot of containers on a rail system, and that seems to be a wave of the future," he said.
Butch Crane, vice president for car carriers at K-Line America, described the inland port's role in getting some trucks off the road a "green win."
"There's room for expansion there for sure," he said about the inland port. "Plenty of open land for [more] businesses to be developed there."
Shenandoah County Planning and Zoning Director Brandon Davis was enthusiastic about the port's potential.
"That port is a major resource for our region, and the success of it I believe is really tied to awareness of the fact that it's there and what it does," he said.
Mercury Paper, located outside of Strasburg, is a heavy user of the inland port, according to Davis.
Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley said many area businesses, including Family Dollar, Ferguson and Sysco, use the inland port.
"Certainly, for Warren County the Virginia Inland Port facility is an important marketing tool for us in selling Front Royal/Warren County to prospective businesses," he said. "It makes us more cost-effective because it's cheaper to ship it via rail down to the port, and plus you're getting that truck traffic off the highway. Basically, the port of Norfolk is here in Front Royal because of the fact we're connected to the inland port."
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org