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Va. inland port creates about 7,000 jobs

December 22, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Virginia's only inland port near Front Royal, Va., has been a magnet for 24 major companies, about $600 million in investment and has contributed to the creation of about 7,000 jobs, according to the state's port authority.

The inland port has been a "catalyst" for economic development in the northern Shenandoah Valley since it opened in 1989, said Greg Edwards, external affairs director for the port authority.

Virginia's intermodal connection in the Warren County community of Cedarville is close to the intersection of Interstates 66 and 81, Edwards said. It also is less than 40 miles from Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, a cog in the proposed inland port for Berkeley County.

The port is connected to the seaports of Virginia's Hampton Roads region by Norfolk Southern railroad service, and its largest customers are The Home Depot, Family Dollar and the makers of Red Bull energy drink. The Home Depot and Family Dollar have built large distribution centers near the intermodal transportation center, Edwards said.

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While the inland port has been federally designated as a port of entry, containers shipped via the "closed-loop" rail line are typically "cleared" at the seaport, Edwards said.

Last year, the inland port handled 33,607 ocean containers, which was down from 2007, when the facility handled 35,366, Edwards said.

Totals from 2009 will not be finalized until January, "but this was a challenging year for the port as a whole and the inland port numbers will certainly reflect that," Edwards said in an e-mail about the data.

Virginia's seaports and inland port are operated by an in-house terminal operating company that was a creation of the Virginia General Assembly, Edwards said.

Its sole authority is to act on the state Port Authority's behalf and any profit must be invested back into the operation, Edwards said.

While operationally self-sufficient, the state does support capital improvements, Edwards said.

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