Tradepoint Atlantic, which is redeveloping the former Sparrows Point steel mill, announced April 5 a 10-year agreement with Host Terminals to oversee marine cargo operations at the Baltimore County site.
The deal includes $30 million in infrastructure investments and is expected to bring 9,500 jobs to the region. The International Union of Operating Engineers' Local 37 will provide union labor for the facility.
"This is a significant milestone," Joseph Greco, Tradepoint Atlantic's vice president of commercial and trade development, said during a news conference the morning of April 5.
The 3,100-acre project has already secured tenants, including FedEx, Harley-Davidson and Under Armour.
Last year, the facility moved 1.6 million tons of cargo, and aims to move 5 million tons annually within five years.
"Our hope and goal is that there will be a steady flow of investments as our tonnage numbers increase," Greco said.
The site offers deepwater berths, 1,000 acres of dedicated marine storage space, connections to both CSX and Norfolk Southern rail lines, and access to interstate highways.
"Very few, if any, locations can compare to that," Greco said over the roar of heavy equipment at the site. The structures that once produced steel have been razed and cleared.
Tradepoint Atlantic and Host Terminals invested $12 million in material-handling equipment and $18 million in marine infrastructure for improvements including storage sheds and road-paving projects. As the project grows, Tradepoint officials said, plans are to continue to invest in improvements.
Greco said Tradepoint will concentrate on bulk and other cargo, and "really using the assets of this facility to leverage all aspects of the supply chain. We view this as something that can't be emulated." In the future, he said, Tradepoint will take steps to attract more vehicle cargo.
The Port of Baltimore handled 10.1 million tons of general cargo last year, setting an all-time record for the facility, and has been the nation's top port for autos for the past five years.
Officials for the Port of Baltimore said the Tradepoint facility would complement existing business in the region.
"We want Tradepoint Atlantic to be successful and bring in new business and new jobs for the Port of Baltimore. The Port Administration supports Tradepoint's efforts to grow jobs and increase economic benefits for the state," Port of Baltimore spokesman Richard Scher said in an e-mail.
Tradepoint received eight applications after seeking requests for proposals from marine operators across the country. Host Terminals stood out, "head and shoulders above," Greco said.
Host opened in Virginia in 1923, and has been operating facilities in Maryland since 1986.
Adam Anderson, Host's president and CEO, said the location makes Tradepoint an ideal facility for cargo owners. Industrial-zoned waterfront property is a commodity, and often, such properties lack the infrastructure that Sparrows Point offers, he said.
He said Host emphasizes efficiency but also innovation. "It's not just the cheapest place to offload the cargo or move things to point A to point B," Anderson said. But the "three to five steps in between, lining up what the chain is now, looking at what the chain could be and optimizing that," he said.
Joseph F. Shanahan of the International Union of Operating Engineers said his group has a long tradition of providing skilled labor at the piers and had been in discussions for more than a year with Tradepoint before reaching an agreement.
"Today marks an important moment for many of us with ties to Baltimore and this iconic site," he said.