Connecticut taxpayers want to know they are getting the most bang for their buck. They want to know their tax dollars are being invested in projects that produce significant returns on jobs and economic growth. When resources are limited, we all want to know that our state is making smart investments.

Connecticut’s maritime economy is one place where we see this in action every day.

The legislature created the Connecticut Port Authority (CPA) to advance the maritime economy of our state, and since beginning operations in 2016, the CPA has been making just the type of strides lawmakers hoped for when they launched the new quasi-public agency. Connecticut has a large number of natural marine assets from our three deepwater ports to over 35 small harbors in our coastal communities and a multitude of navigation channels.

Since our founding, the CPA has moved with speed to help the state’s maritime industry reach its full economic potential by investing in much needed infrastructure improvements and updated strategic planning.

Last month in New London, Gov. Ned Lamont announced a historic public-private partnership to revitalize State Pier. A major component of that project is the upgrading of State Pier’s infrastructure to accommodate the heavy lift needs of the emerging offshore wind industry. This upgrade will establish New London as a major northeast center for the offshore wind industry and enable State Pier to handle a wider variety of cargo for decades to come.

This is a public-private partnership that’s working: the CPA leveraged $35.5 million in state money to attract $57 million in private funds.

Fortunately, the legislature also overwhelmingly passed legislation requiring up to 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind in the final days of the session which means Connecticut is securing a renewable source of clean energy for our own future, as well.

Throughout the Northeast, the competition to meet the growing demand for clean energy is only heating up. That means offshore wind companies are now seeing the value in building and maintaining access to our local ports, with their close proximity to offshore lease areas. This dynamic is increasingly evident in Bridgeport, where offshore wind companies have expressed interest in investing millions to revitalize that city’s port infrastructure. This type of private sector investment would provide the necessary economic justification for the CPA to partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the channel leading up to Bridgeport and create much-needed access to this valuable port.

Guided by Connecticut’s first Maritime Strategy, the CPA is uniquely positioned to have a positive impact on the Connecticut economy and create jobs across the state through these projects and others.

• In New Haven, the CPA is currently working to better link the port to the economic networks that move goods throughout the Northeast. Through development of a port master plan and a multi-year dredging project with the USACE and the New Haven Port Authority, the CPA is working to expand the flow of cargo moving through the port, and with a significant investment to better link the port with Connecticut’s vast rail network, the CPA is improving the flow of goods on to their final destination throughout the Northeast. Both of these efforts expand the ports economic impact and create jobs throughout the region.

• At Fort Trumbull in New London, the CPA is investing $750,000 on a design and engineering study to identify the upgrades needed to improve the overall safety and structural integrity of Pier 7. Pier 7 currently accommodates Coast Guard and Naval vessels, with the potential to attract other larger vessels such as cruise ships. The CPA’s future investments in Pier 7’s infrastructure improvements would allow the region to capture additional economic opportunities for years to come.

• Under the Small Harbor Improvements Program (SHIPP), Connecticut municipalities apply for matching funds that improve the infrastructure or management of their local waterways. To date, CPA has funded 18 projects for just over $4 million with selection currently underway for a new round of projects. These small harbors are the lifeblood of Connecticut’s thriving recreational economy, and by investing in their ongoing safety and accessibility, the CPA is shoring up this vital aspect of our economy.

A thriving maritime economy creates good, stable jobs and opens up long-term economic development opportunities throughout the state.

By creating the CPA, legislators made a down payment on the state’s future, and started writing one of the state’s success stories. With impacts on our deepwater ports and our small harbors, we thank those who had the vision to set the stage for job creation and economic growth, using global solutions to benefit our local waters.

Scott Bates is the departing Chairman of the Connecticut Port Authority.

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