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Efforts are underway to pass legislation in the 2020 Missouri General Assembly that would make land available for a port facility on the Missouri River in Jefferson City.

Heartland Port Authority commissioners on Tuesday gave their support for legislation that would transfer 116 acres of state-owned land just east of the Ike Skelton Training Facility in Jefferson City to the Port Authority.

State Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, sponsored the land transference bill in the Missouri House last year and plans to do so again this year. Veit told commissioners that state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, plans to sponsor the legislation in the Senate as he did last year.

Veit said he doesn’t foresee any obstacles to getting the legislation passed in 2020. Last year, the Jefferson City land transference was tied in with other land transfer requests from across the state. While there was no opposition voiced to Jefferson City’s request, the land transfer bill did not make it to the full Senate and House for their consideration as state budget debates lasted into the final days of the legislative session.

“This group strongly considered all locations on the south side of the river and looked at what has been done versus what could be done, and I think we’ve reached consensus that this is the site we support,” Port Authority Commission Chair Rick Mihalevich said.

Meanwhile, commissioners are still working on a marketing study to determine what products could be enhanced by the operation of a port.

After visiting other port facilities in the state, commissioners said they felt it was vital to have one or two main anchor businesses that would use the facility. They have had contacts with the Farmer family who operates Capital Sand, but under the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority grant the Heartland Port Authority received in September, the marketing study and business development plan to be done by Decision Innovation Solutions out of Urbandale, Iowa, is to identify companies in an 11-county area that could use the port.

Commissioners said they feel the grain market in this area isn’t large enough to support a port, but businesses in the forestry industry near Lebanon and Vienna could have transportation needs the port could help with.

Companies dealing in fertilizers, basic chemicals and animal feed have also been discussed as possible clients.

Commissioners plan to contact some of the businesses that have and will be identified during the study. Once the business identification part of the study is done, the second phase will be to consider assets the port would need, such as rail access and storage area.

The study is scheduled to be done by March.

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