Owensboro Riverport Authority | 1771 River Road | P.O. Box 21955 | Owensboro, Kentucky 42304
 
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Riney proving city's riverport can prosper

September 30, 2012

By the Messenger-Inquirer

In December 2009, the Owensboro Riverport Authority was on the verge of going from a public entity to a private business.

A five-member advisory committee appointed by Mayor Ron Payne was given the task of investigating the idea of selling the riverport, privatizing it or keeping it public.

In the end, the committee recommended the riverport remain under control of its public board.

It was a decision — more like a second chance — we now know the city is benefiting from nearly three years later.

In what was an amazing turnaround, much of the 36-year-old riverport authority's success came during the worst part of the Great Recession.

According to a recent article by Messenger-Inquirer reporter Steve Vied, between June 2007 and June of this year, the riverport brought in a net income of $9.6 million. That was 48 percent of the total net income the port had generated in its previous 31 years of operation.

At one time, handling and warehousing aluminum was a major income source but no longer as that industry continues to struggle. Instead of focusing on metals, attention was shifted to agriculture, storing and shipping grain and fertilizer.

We give much of the credit to port CEO and President Ed Riney, who was hired for the job in March 2007. Almost instantly, he gave new direction to the port when it seemed selling was the city's best option.

Riney cut costs, withdrew plans for port construction projects and through attrition reduced payroll from 51 to 31 employees.

The increased revenue and trimming expenses have also allowed the city of Owensboro to enjoy financial returns.

In the past five years, the port has paid $1.36 million to the city through an annual dividend, accounting for 60 percent of the total of dividends paid to the city since 1976.

Although it has taken decades, the riverport now seems to be fulfilling its original purpose — an industrial park situated at a strategic position on the Ohio River "for riverborne commerce and water-based industrial development."

Both Riney and the port's public board of directors are to be commended, showing under the right leadership the port can prosper on its own without taxpayer dollars and provide extra revenue to the city at the same time.

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