Southern Illinois port project needs $1M to move forward

CAIRO, Ill. (AP) — A southern Illinois city needs to raise $1 million to continue progress on a port project.

The Cairo Port Authority would use the funds for permitting and design costs for the proposed river port on the Ohio River side of Cairo, The Southern Illinoisan reported .

“The next step is we need a FY19 balanced budget,” said Republican Sen. Dale Fowler of Harrisburg.

Fowler said he’s hoping for a line item in this year’s budget to specifically allocate the money.

“We are right there,” Fowler said. “As long as the momentum continues forward, that’s the whole key.”

It could take up to two years to complete the permitting and design process, said Todd Ely, a project consultant.

Once that’s finished, contracts can be made with companies interested in using the port, which could then be used to acquire additional funding.

“We are still in the very early stages,” Ely said.

The authority has received nearly 20 letters of interest from businesses that’ve expressed interest in using the port. Ely said he hopes to have a total of 25 letters by the end of the month.

While the letters are non-committal, there is still enthusiasm from businesses, Ely said.

“I’ve not had one company tell me … they don’t think the port is a good idea,” he said.

The Rauner Foundation gave the authority $100,000 five months ago to market the proposed development to companies and investors.

The port would have a “substantial” impact on the city and the region, Fowler said.

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