Laying a foundation

Published 9:09 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2017

It might not have looked like much, and in fact, it would have gone unseen by nearly everyone who passed by, but the work that started on Monday at the Virginia International Gateway was no less important for all its obscurity.

Survey crews on Monday began the preparatory work for an expansion of the railyard and container stacking area at VIG. The work marked the official beginning of a $320-million expansion project that will nearly double the terminal’s annual cargo handling capacity, according to Virginia Port Authority spokesman Joe Harris.

“This is an important day in the history of The Port of Virginia; it is an important milestone in our effort to increase sustainability and to prepare this port for what is to come,” John F. Reinhart, chief executive officer and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, stated in a press release.

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We tend to clock out when we start to hear aggrandized statements that use the words “important day in history,” but the fact is that Reinhart was right on the money with this assessment. Monday marked an important day in the history of the Port of Virginia, and officials did well to herald it.

This expansion is a huge one, and it will enable Virginia to compete for some of the biggest container ships sailing the world’s oceans. That means Hampton Roads’ ports will be on a footing to compete with any of the heavy hitters on the United States’ East Coast.

In fact, port officials expect that the increased capacity — the expansion will allow VIG to process 1.2 million containers a year — could result in an additional 166,000 jobs, $22 billion in extra spending and $636 million in state and local taxes across the commonwealth.

We’ve said this before, and it bears repeating: Good news for the port — especially the Virginia International Gateway, which sits just across Suffolk’s city line in Portsmouth — is good news for Suffolk.

With this city’s heavy investment in infrastructure to support the logistics industry, companies specializing in warehousing and distribution have flocked to Suffolk to stake out territory for their shipping and receiving operations.

All those big containers might arrive or depart via the big cranes located at VIG, but many of those containers are packed and unpacked right here in Suffolk, and the trucks and trains that transport them back and forth travel right through this city.

Success at the ports in Hampton Roads will inevitably increase traffic here in Suffolk, but it will also result in more logistics jobs, more opportunities for diesel mechanics and more of the other skilled, blue-collar positions that could raise the standard of living for so many people in this city.

So even though you probably didn’t see them working on Monday, tip your hat today to the surveyors who were marking the first corners of the new container yard at Virginia International Gateway. In a very real sense, their work will lay the foundation for a stronger Suffolk economy 10 years from now.