“Successful economic development requires a series of proactive steps designed to put Rhode Island in position to take best advantage of its inherent resources,” Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) told senior executives from Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche’s national headquarters during a presentation this week at the North Atlantic Distribution, Inc. (NORAD) facility at the Port of Davisville.
“Such examples are the state’s geographic location, its coastal water resources and its land transportation connections and assets that uniquely enable Rhode Island both to regain its former place in waterborne transportation and to realize the attendant economic and environmental benefits,” he told the gathering.
Walaska, who is the senate president pro tem as well as the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce and the Senate Committee on Environment & Agriculture, served for three years as the co-chairman of a special legislative commission that studied the potential economic opportunities in the development of port facilities in Rhode Island. This week’s presentation was an opportunity to highlight the successful partnership at the Port of Davisville by the state, NORAD and Volkswagen.
One recommendation of the study commission that stood out among the rest, said Walaska, “was the need for enhanced coordination and greater cooperation among all governmental and non-governmental port facility stakeholders. I can say that what we have seen here in Davisville is a perfect example of that sort of cooperation.”
In just over a decade, the Port of Davisville has grown to be the seventh largest auto import port in the United States, employing more than 300 people at NORAD with more than 1,100 direct and indirect port-related jobs. In 2012 alone, more than 172,000 autos were brought into the port by sea, with another 41,000 autos coming in by rail and 2,300 by truck. The import figures for that year reflected a 14.6 percent increase over 2011’s record-breaking numbers.
Walaska paid credit to Mike Miranda, president of NORAD, who worked tirelessly with legislative leaders and other government officials to obtain Volkswagen, which became the Davisville “anchor” tenant in 2002. Since then, the public-private partnership at the port has committed more than $600 million in capital improvements at the port and Quonset Industrial Park, including dredging, pier and dock improvements as well as road and rail improvements. During that time, NORAD has constructed what is now a world-class auto processing facility at the port.
In April, NORAD announced it will begin importing Hondas from Mexico, adding another 25,000 autos to the number already reaching Davisville, from companies such as VW, Audi, Porsche, Subaru, Ford and Bentley.
“Our state has the knowledge, flexibility and commitment to redevelop and re-capitalize its port-related economic activities,” Walaska told the VW executives. “This is due in no small part to our close proximity to ocean trade lanes, well-sheltered deep water ports, interstate highways, modern freight rail lines, airports and, most importantly, the entrepreneurial spirit of our numerous export- and import-related owners and partners, such as NORAD and Volkswagen.”
The Ocean State’s history is deeply rooted to the working waterfronts of the state “and we hope the excellent work of the Port Commission and the other stakeholders will be leveraged to expand this tradition for the benefit of the state’s residents and business partners,” he said.