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Heartland Port Authority continues to seek funding

Heartland Port Authority continues to seek funding

May 16th, 2019 by Jeff Haldiman in Local News

The Heartland Port Authority Board of Commissioners is pushing ahead with applying for grants as they await word of whether the state Legislature approves a bill transferring ownership of land for a port to access the Missouri River in Jefferson City.

At the board's monthly meeting Tuesday, Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce President Randy Allen said they had submitted their application for a federal grant.

The USDA Missouri Rural Business Development Grant would be for $175,000, used to fund needed clearances under the National Environmental Policy Act that the port site would have to meet — including farmland impact, hydraulic modeling and determining if any endangered species are in the area where a proposed port would be located.

No funds from local governments were used, Allen said, and the Port Authority Board received a letter of support from Missouri's U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt.

They should know in the next few weeks if the grant application is successful, Allen said.

The board also voted Tuesday to have board chair Rick Mihalevich ask the Jefferson City Council — of which Mihalevich is a member — to approve a resolution at the council's meeting Monday to provide funds for a match for another port-related grant.

The state Department of Agriculture's Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority provides up to $200,000 in grants to projects that aid rural communities. Grants can cover expenses relating to feasibility studies, marketing studies, marketing plans, business plans and prospects for development, according to Agriculture Department guidelines. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and disbursed in January and July of each year.

A subcommittee of board members worked to develop a request for proposals from firms with business planning expertise, and they determined Decision Innovation Solutions, an economic research and analysis firm from Iowa, had the best proposal.

Chamber Economic Development Director Missy Bonnot said they will apply for a MASBDA grant of $183,700, but they would need a $20,000 match. Missouri Soybean Association CEO and Executive Director Gary Wheeler, who also sits on the Heartland Port Authority Board, said his organization would provide $5,000 toward the match. That leaves $13,370 yet to be funded.

Mihalevich will ask the Jefferson City Council to fund up to $6,850 of the remaining amount. He said the Port Authority Board will later ask the Cole and Callaway county commissions to provide the rest of the money to cover the match.

The plan is to submit the grant application next month.

Meanwhile, the legislative bill that would transfer 116 acres of state-owned land just east of the Ike Skelton Training Facility in Jefferson City to the Heartland Port Authority has yet to be voted on by the full Missouri Senate.

State Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, sponsors HB 1237, which combines other land conveyance bills from around the state into one measure.

"We're still alive," Allen said. "However, there's issues that have to be decided with other measures that could take up more time of the Legislature — and that could slow down the process for our measure."

The regular legislative session must end at 6 p.m. Friday.

Should the Legislature fail to pass a measure for the port, Allen said, "We'll be on hold. No one has objected to our port measure, but we don't have any control how the measures go through the Legislature."