Virginia Port: Gateway to the economic growth

Virginia is thriving, ranking both top ten in the nation to do business and to raise a family. As a well-established hub for high-tech, the state boasts some of the top public and private universities in the nation, and our commonwealth is home to the Port of Virginia – one of the biggest and most economically impactful ports in the nation. The Port of Virginia is actively working to deepen and widen its channels to keep pace with the growing demand of vessels calling on its services, but that is dependent on Congress completing its budget and appropriations process on time.

The Port of Virginia is a national gateway for commerce, supporting businesses in all the lower 48 states and handling record-setting cargo volumes that are driving its expansion. The Port is the fifth largest container port complex in the U.S. and moves a wide range of export and import cargo: auto parts, electronics, food, agricultural products, retail goods and finished vehicles to name a few.

As a catalyst for commerce, the Port is attracting growth, fostering development, and creating jobs. On the state level, cargo moving through the Port supports more than 530,000 jobs statewide and generates in excess of $88 billion in annual economic impact for Virginia.

Since 2014, the Port of Virginia has been servicing the biggest container ships sailing the Atlantic Ocean, called ULCVs, or ultra-large container vessels. The ULCVs are getting bigger and carry increasing amounts of cargo. These platforms of commerce equate to jobs and economic investment in Virginia and throughout the port’s market, which includes the nation’s Heartland. ULCVs are so large that the limits of the main Hampton Roads shipping channel creates a strain on the efficient sailing of ships. With ULCVs calling on our port with increasing frequency this increasing strain reduces our port’s ability to load and unload ULCVs and quickly get them back to sea.

As a nationally significant waterway, federal funding is fundamental to assure the Port keeps pace with the growing size and demand of today’s container vessels. Congress must adequately fund the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program. Additionally, it must direct at least one construction “new start” designation for navigation in this year’s appropriations process. This will be essential to maintaining and advancing the work already being done by the state of Virginia and the Port to improve and expand its operations.

Federal investment in The Port of Virginia is an investment in the success of future generations and the health of our national economy. Congress must realize the positive, long-term negative effects for the nation in continuing short term, stop-gap spending measures. These irresponsible actions do not allow new programs to be funded, for outdated ones to be cut, or allow entities like the Port of Virginia to plan for the future. We are seeing this broken process affecting projects at the Port of Virginia. We cannot continue to kick the can down the road; waiting is just procrastinating, and we cannot afford to procrastinate any longer.

Virginia’s entire U.S House of Representatives delegation, Republicans and Democrats, recently sent a letter to appropriators advocating for critical funding resources, emphasizing their importance in keeping the deepening and widening projects on schedule. The Port is already moving ahead of its federal partner using funds provided by the Virginia General Assembly in the 2018 budget. The Port will begin dredging in January 2020 to meet the urgent needs of the industry, but further delays in federal funding create uncertainty within the industry regarding our ability to fully-execute Virginia’s goal of being home to the East Coast’s deepest, safest and most efficient port.

Dollars spent on improvements on land and in the water are investments in the success of future generations. Congress must complete its work so that these critical projects at the Port can stay on track to benefit Virginia and the nation.

Rep. Rob WittmanRobert (Rob) Joseph WittmanVirginia Port: Gateway to the economic growth Republican lawmakers ask Trump not to delay Pentagon cloud-computing contract Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland MORE represents Virginia's 1st District and David White is the Executive Vice President of the Virginia Maritime Association.