Despite a gloomy outlook for Georgia’s economy in 2003, the state’s ports, including Savannah, are an example of positive growth that could boost overall economic recovery, according to Keith Mason, chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority.

Georgia’s ports were recognized as a means of bolstering the state’s sluggish economy during the annual Georgia Economic Outlook 2003 conference at the Georgia World Congress Center, which Mr. Mason recently attended.

“Georgia ports have experienced 16 consecutive years of growth, which can be attributed to state support and the ports’ well-managed facilities and service operations in Savannah and Brunswick,” he told GlobalFax at the conference.

While Georgia’s gross state product will increase only 2.7 percent in 2003, the ports authority has had a record-breaking 2003 fiscal year, beginning July 1. An additional 100,000 cargo containers have come through the Savannah and Brunswick ports since July, representing a 27 percent increase compared to the first four months of last year.

This growth in cargo movement through Georgia ports is expected to continue through the fiscal year, he said, because the distribution centers constructed around the ports are creating more imports storage capacity and, hence, more jobs in the transportation sector to distribute goods throughout the country.

According to P. George Benson, the dean of Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia and a speaker at the conference, some 100 trucking companies and two of the country’s largest railroad lines service Georgia ports. Georgia’s port activities directly or indirectly support 80,100 jobs and are responsible for $1.8 billion in personal income.

Even with the U.S. dollar’s recent weakening, making U.S. exports slightly more attractive to foreign buyers, the sluggish global economy is not expected to provide a strong stimulus for U.S. shipments of goods abroad, but Georgia ports will be an exception, Dr. Benson said.

Total tonnage shipped through Georgia ports will continue to rise, he said, noting that the state’s ports contribute $585 million in tax receipts to Georgia’s economy each year.

Mr. Mason cited as reasons for Georgia ports’ success support from state government for infrastructure improvements, including the new $83 million Savannah International Trade & Convention Center with more than 150,000 square feet of event space available. He also cited a reliable workforce at GPA, a fairly even balance of trade at the Savannah facility and Georgia’s location on the south Atlantic coast with good truck and rail access to markets in the Southeast and Midwest.

Nineteen of the top 20 sea carriers call on Georgia ports, he noted. Savannah is the seventh largest container port in the country.

Contact Mr. Mason, partner at McKenna, Long and Aldridge, at (404) 527-4000 or the Georgia Ports Authority at (800) 342-8012. Contact the Terry College at (706) 542-3527.