The year was 1905.
A group of business owners in Victoria organized the Interstate Inland Waterway League and aimed at the goal of creating “a continuous system that would tie together the 18,000 miles of navigable waters extending from the Great Lakes through the Mississippi Valley and along the Louisiana and Texas coastlines,” according to “History of the Intracoastal Waterway” by Lynn M. Alperin.
The people who gathered at those meetings in Victoria County, which had a population of about 14,000, were innovative and forward-thinking. They developed a system that was credited for transporting commodities across water at a cost significantly less than hauling them over land.
Now, fast-forward about 109 years.
The leaders of today’s Port of Victoria also have been thinking, planning and creating big for our region’s next 50 to 100 years.
And from what we can see, their efforts are working very well and are securing a strong economic future for our growing community and region.
Robby Burdge, chairman of the Victoria County Navigation District, the port’s governing arm, said the facility had once been under the radar.
Not any more.
How the port has been operating the past few years is setting the bar on how a taxing entity that relies on public and private money should operate. The port works closely with various industries such Caterpillar Inc. and Eagle Ford Shale companies to collaborate and construct what is needed to thrive. Such partnerships have helped create a liquid cargo dock and a general purpose dock.
Port officials also have worked with the federal government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain its infrastructure. Those partnerships have led to improving and dredging its 34.9-mile barge canal, building a lift bridge and improving its railway system.
All of this work is paying off.
Activity at the Port of Victoria is creating an estimated economic impact of $10 billion for the region.
In the Navigation District’s most recent annual report to Victoria County commissioners, the Eagle Ford Shale was noted as the biggest game-changer.
More than 2 million barrels every month, of oil, sand, gravel, frac sand and other chemicals moved across port docks in 2013. This year, officials expect to reach 3 million barrels each month.
With the funding comes the best part – for taxpayers.
Money to support the various projects has come from various sources – revenue bonds, grants, general obligation bonds, the industries directly and, of course, the Port of Victoria’s taxing district.
But what’s admirable is how port officials are trying to reduce the amount of money it gets from taxpayers. And when that happens, it means private business is supporting a greater portion of the facility’s maintenance and operation.
The district collects about $1.5 million in taxes from Victoria County property owners at a rate of 2.77 cents per $100 valuation. The tax rate is expected to drop to 2.40 cents.
In 2008, taxpayers supplied 63.6 percent of the port’s total revenue. In 2015, officials estimate the taxpayer’s share to be 26.2 percent.
The region’s investment in the port is paying dividends in terms of creating jobs, increasing the area’s tax base and strengthening economic development.
With its current management, the Port of Victoria is in excellent hands and is a prime example of planning, partnership and innovation meeting opportunity – a model we need for all of our community.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.