Brunswick Business Journal: HunterMaclean Critical Issues Forum in Brunswick Focuses on Logistics

November 15, 2013

HunterMaclean Critical Issues Forum in Brunswick Focuses on Logistics

Special to the Brunswick Business Journal

Page Siplon, executive director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, believes logistics is one of America’s fastest-changing industries.

“Consumers are changing the way we deliver products,” he told an audience of nearly 100 local business leaders at HunterMaclean’s Critical Issues Forum, which took place at the College of Coastal Georgia in Brunswick on November 13. “Technology is changing the supply chain and logistics.”

Siplon, who served as the moderator for the Critical Issues Forum, said e-commerce is expected to top $280 billion by 2015 and to exceed $2.7 trillion by 2025. The end result, he said, will be adding four billion additional tons of cargo to “a pretty taxed network in the United States.”

“As a nation, we need to do a much better job of keeping up our infrastructure in order to meet demand,” he explained. “That’s one of our biggest challenges.”

At the HunterMaclean Critical Issues Forum, panelists Bill Dawson of the Georgia Ports Authority-Brunswick, Mike Bell of Rayonier and Harold Arnold of Fram Renewable Fuels addressed range of timely issues related to logistics in coastal Georgia.

Dawson, the general manager of operations for Georgia Ports Authority-Brunswick, said the Brunswick port is the number one automobile import facility in the United States. In addition, cargo transportation is on the rise at the port, exceeding three million tons last year for the very first time.

“The key to the movement of product is infrastructure and infrastructure improvements,” he explained.

As the federal government has cut the Brunswick port’s annual harbor maintenance funding from $6 million to $3 million, some of the harbor deepening completed nearly eight years ago near Colonel’s Island has been lost to sediment built-up.

“We have a very strong political presence in Washington,” he said, “and hope to get the funding we need to get our harbor back to the level it needs to be.”

Bell, the director of external affairs at Rayonier, focused on developments in trucking that could help maximize transportation efficiency on U.S. highways. He supports the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA), also known as H.R. 612, which proposes allowing six-axle trucks to transport 97,000-pound cargo on American interstates. A proposed user fee would cover bridge repairs and road damage resulting from the heavier trucks.

“These trucks would allow for increased productivity, more fuel-efficient transportation and a 19 percent decrease in fuel consumption,” Bell said. “They will help us get more return on investment on our existing highways.”

Arnold underscored the fact that logistics plays a key role in the delivery of raw materials to Fram Renewable Fuels and in the export of the company’s finished wood pellets from the Brunswick port. He praised the Georgia Ports Authority facility in Brunswick for its growing ability to transport dry bulk product.

The Brunswick Critical Issues Forum was presented by HunterMaclean. The event included opening remarks by HunterMaclean attorneys Bob Cunningham and Brad Harmon and marked the second discussion in an ongoing series of Critical Issues Forums addressing issues affecting the Brunswick community. HunterMaclean also hosted a similar event focusing on logistics in Savannah in October.

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