December 5, 2018 3:15 PM, EST

Inland Port Coming to Northeast Georgia

Port Of Savannah Port of Savannah in Georgia. (Ty Wright/Bloomberg News)

A regional terminal for cargo heading from the Port of Savannah to area companies could open in 2021 at the Gateway Industrial Centre off Ga. 365 in North Hall.

State officials, including Gov. Nathan Deal, touted and gave more details about the project, which was announced earlier this year, at a gathering with area business and government leaders Dec. 3 at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville.

“Let me assure you that what we’re doing today is a big deal for Gainesville, Hall County, for the entire region that we serve here,” said Philip Wilheit, chairman of the Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority. “It’s almost overwhelming to me what this port is going to mean to us.”

Construction is expected to start in August on the Northeast Georgia Inland Port on 104 acres off Gateway Centre Parkway, along a strip of land next to Norfolk Southern railroad lines.

The port will serve the Interstate 85 region of Georgia, which Deal called an important area for the production of heavy equipment, food and forest products.

Handling import and export containers at the Gainesville terminal, Norfolk Southern will provide service on a direct rail route to and from the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal.

At full build-out, it will have the capacity to handle 150,000 containers per year.

Norfolk Southern

 A Norfolk Southern Corp. freight locomotive. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News)

“Savannah is a rapidly growing gateway for global commerce, and Hall County and the surrounding region in northeast Georgia are key areas of expansion in the state,” said Jeff Heller, Norfolk Southern’s intermodal and automotive vice president. Georgia Ports Authority’s inland port at Gainesville, combined with Norfolk Southern’s rail service, “will provide crucial links in the supply chains of local industries, consumers and the rest of the world, and serve as a catalyst for new opportunities for industrial development.”

The port eventually could have up to 20 employees. “[It] will also act as an economic development tool, drawing new investment from business and industry to Hall and its surrounding counties,” Deal said.

The inland port already is drawing economic interest.

Officials also announced Dec. 3 that Auto Metal Direct, a worldwide distributor of auto body panels and trim for classic cars and trucks, plans to build a 318,000-square-foot distribution and fulfillment center at Gateway, across the street from the port.

Construction will begin soon on the $15 million project, expected to create 40 jobs.

“Hundreds of containers each year are received by AMD, so the services provided by the Georgia Ports Authority are essential for the maintenance and growth of our business,” Auto Metal Direct President Mark Headrick said in a press release.

“The proximity of the new inland port will be a real plus in many areas and was an influencing factor in the eventual location of our building,” eh said. “Quicker service, lower cost and ease of movement should all be realized in our new location.”

The Appalachian Regional Port, serving the I-75 region of Georgia, opened Aug. 22 on 42 acres in Murray County.

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