Newton one step closer to Tulsa port partnership

NEWTON — The city of Newton and Harvey County drew a step closer Monday afternoon to a partnership with the Port of Catoosa in Tulsa, a move that would establish Newton's Kansas Logistics Park as a regional manufacturing and logistics hub.

Commissioners from both bodies discussed the preparation of a draft partnership agreement after a presentation by Dick Grenville, director of logistics and business development with the port.

The two governing bodies are planning a July 19 trip to the port, where they tentatively plan a ceremonial signing of the partnership agreement.

"My mission here today is to convince you guys that a working partnership between the port and Newton can only enhance both of our situations," Grenville said. "You won't ship everything you produce or import and export through the port, but we believe we're another tool in your belt to tell prospects you've got a port three hours away to access national and international markets.

"I think it's a win-win for both of us."

The port includes a 2,200-acre industrial park with 63 businesses, 3,000 employees and $225 million in private industrial investment. It was constructed in 1970 to provide direct waterway access to the Gulf of Mexico and tie into railway and highway transportation across the center of the United States to the Canadian border.

"I think your business is a little different," Grenville said. "We have all the industry we need, but we'd like to be a transportation center for the central United States.

"We feel we can offer a lot of people who come to the port a look at the good transportation connection Newton, Kansas, has. We can show industries that you are a little larger than the community they're thinking of relocating to."

Grenville said the partnership could prove valuable to Kansas grain exporters and to the oil and gas industry in the central United States, which is in need of large equipment. He trumpeted the cost effectiveness of such waterway transportation to the Gulf and overseas, saying a single barge can carry the equivalent of 60 semi truckloads of goods.

The proposed partnership, described by city officials as a "cross-marketing" agreement, has already been an asset in industrial recruitment for the Newton logistics park, said Mickey Fornaro-Dean, the county's economic development director, as a means to maximize transportation dollars, both for manufacturers and warehousing operations.

"We will market our waterway in that vein, too," Grenville said. "The Gateway to the Central United States. We will have more impact in looking regionally and partnering with cities like Newton; Alva, Okla.; Springfield, Mo. We can say we are a gateway for trade to give your transportation dollar its most power."