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Inland Port could bring 2,000 jobs to an area in Syracuse that needs it the most

Central New York's proposal for the state's economic development competition includes one project with the potential to create up to 2,000 jobs. Those jobs could go to a part of Syracuse that needs it the most.

About $40 million was allocated in last year’s state budget to support the construction of a cargo container yard or what’s known as an inland port, a mile and a half away from Syracuse’s south side neighborhoods which has some of the most concentrated poverty in the nation according to a recent study.

Rob Simpson of CenterState CEO, who co-chairs the development council, anticipates it will create about 300-400 jobs. But they’re not stopping there. The council is asking for an additional $40 million from the initiative competition to help develop 225-acres surrounding the inland port for manufacturing, warehousing and distribution. Based on the square feet of the space, Simpson said that has the potential to create an additional 1,600 new jobs over the next four to five years.

“We’re already seeing strong private sector interest in investing on that site; a number of globally recognized names and agriculture and transportation logistics that we’re talking to," Simpson said. "I have every confidence that once the project is up and running, that we’re going to see a lot of development on that site very quickly.”

Simpson said this could also reduce the cost of exporting central New York products by up to 40 percent. The inland port would receive containers, via rail, that comes from ships that enter the Port of New York and New Jersey.

It has worked in other states because it was proven to be faster to move the containers off a ship onto rail rather than onto trucks. The inland port would be operated by the Port Authority of Oswego.

Zelko Kirincich, the executive director of the port, said a large expansion of the Panama Canal is going to be bringing ships three times their size into the Port of New York and New Jersey, increasing the congestion. 

“That’s three times the amount of cargo that’s going to be deposited and exported at the same time," Kirincich said. "Hence limited real estate, hence you need to rethink the way you’re doing business. Other ports, Virginia, Carolinas, Savannah have adjusted. New York is just now getting on the bandwagon.”  

The project is expected to get started by next summer or early fall of 2016.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.