September 25, 2013
Bill Brown’s passion for all things railroad-related began as an eight-year old on a visit to relatives in Henderson, North Carolina. During that trip, he was invited to climb aboard a massive locomotive steam engine operated by his great-uncle, a railroad engineer. But Bill was too afraid to ascend the ladder. Little did he know that 50 years later, he would run his own railroad company, and help create the Port of Cleveland’s own rail line along its docks.
As co-owner and CFO of Cleveland Commercial Railroad (CCR), Bill helped establish and build a high quality, efficient, and affordable rail service that helps link local businesses to the world. Since being founded in 2004, Brown and CCR have been busy, expanding their service area by adding another rail line in 2009 and creating a subsidiary, Cleveland Harbor Belt, last year to serve the Port’s docks. And he’s fulfilling a lifelong dream while doing so.
“I always regretted wimping out as a kid by not getting on that train,” explains Brown. “I’ve been fascinated by trains ever since.” His path into the railroad world was a circuitous one, following military service as a paratrooper and company commander in Southeast Asia, an Ivy League education at Columbia, and a long, successful career as an insurance executive.
Over the years, Brown found outlets for his love of locomotives. While living in Long Island in the 1970s, he travelled to work in Manhattan via commuter train, and signed up for a program to ride in the cab of a diesel engine. “I took my five-year old son, and I was more excited than him” he said. “It was like being in a living beast—it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.”
But Brown traces his entry into the railroad industry directly to a Christmas gift he received in 2000. “My wife gave me an electric train set,” he said. “She really had no idea what she had set in motion.” Brown soon parlayed that gift it into a fulltime hobby with numerous additional sets and pieces and visits to model train stores and shows.
It was at one of those shows that Brown met Doug Fink, a 40-year railroad veteran. Fink was running a stand for the Midwestern Railway Preservation Society, a group that restores vintage rail cars. Brown joined the Society, and became friends with Fink, who helped teach him how to run an engine and obtain his conductors license. Fink also introduced Brown to another longtime railroad pro, Mike Kole, and a few years later, the three would create CCR.
In the ten years since, the Glenwillow-based company has more than tripled the number of cars it handles and people it employs. Brown is convinced that CCR has even more room to grow, and sees the Harbor Belt as a key part of the company’s strategy. “The new rail loop places the Port in a great position to do more business,” he said. “Businesses can reach half the U.S. population from here in a day or less through Cleveland.”
CCR got involved with the Port after the partners heard President and CEO Will Friedman mention the concept of a port switching line while speaking at a logistics conference. At the time, there was no way for shipments to link directly from the Port’s docks into the two major rail carriers, CSX and Norfolk Southern. Brown and his partners struck up a conversation with Friedman, offered some insight, and that conversation led to the rail loop.
The Port owns the track and CCR manages operations through Harbor Belt, which pulled its first car last October. The entire CCR team enjoys helping the Port position Cleveland in the global market. “We feel like we are part of the momentum that’s going on there,” he said. “We really enjoy the work and respect the Port’s team. We are betting on their future success.”
Even as CFO, Brown is actively involved in just about everything for CCR, from lining up clients to operating the engines, which is demanding physical work for anyone, let alone a man in his 60s. But Brown doesn’t envision slowing down anytime soon. “This does not seem like work at all,” he said. “I’d rather run a locomotive than do anything else in the world.”
To read a previous article on the Port’s launch of the rail loop, click here.
To find more information on Cleveland Commercial Railroad, click here.
September 25, 2013
Since being launched last fall, Flotsam and Jetsam—the Port of Cleveland’s tandem work boats—have been cleaning Cleveland’s Lakefront Harbor and the Cuyahoga River ship channel, with over 240 tons of floating debris cleared from the water. A day on the boats with their crew involves intense teamwork, an array of uniquely adapted tools, some creative thinking, and, at the end of a shift, a sense of true accomplishment.
“It’s like a ballet out here,” said Jim White the Port’s director of sustainable Infrastructure Programs, who oversees the program. “The boats work in harmony despite having a lot of factors to deal with – wind, current, the terrain surrounding the water. It’s quite a challenging environment.”
Flotsam and Jetsam work together as a seamless system, with crewmembers moving from one to the other depending on the task at hand. The boats even can be linked together to form one large platform, providing stability for more difficult tasks.
But the boats aren’t the only team at work – they are operated by a combined crew of five supplied through an agreement with the Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA). Those crews steer the boats, scour the lake and river to spy debris, and then pull it from the water using heavy equipment and hand tools such as rakes, poles, and grappling hooks. The floating debris ranges from small items such as plastic bottles to massive trees, limbs, and tires.
To collect large amounts of debris at once, a specially adapted mini-excavator has been secured to the deck of Flotsam, its bucket motion reversed in order to scoop, rather than dig, and its arm is fitted with a custom shovel-like attachment. Jetsam functions in part as a collection vessel where “Bagsters”™ (large fabric dumpsters with handles) are filled with debris for later disposal. Jetsam also features a small, but powerful crane used to grapple large debris and haul it onto its deck, including some tree limbs so large that crews must cut them up with a chainsaw so they can fit into the Bagsters™.
One of the most effective methods for collecting materials involves deploying yellow “booms,” long buoyant curtains that gather stray debris into a single location over a period of time. Crews can then easily collect the material from one central spot. The boats also feature water pumps and hoses that shoot powerful jets of water to push debris into a single spot for round up.
“Most of what we pull out of the water is organic material, things like waterlogged tree trunks and limbs with most of their mass setting below the surface like an iceberg,” described White. “Some weigh a few thousand pounds and run 30 feet long, but still fool boaters into thinking they’re not a threat.” If a small boat runs over one of these “iceberg” tree limbs, it can cause a ruined propeller or a dangerous fall into the water for those onboard.
“It’s great to see the Port of Cleveland taking care of the waterfront,” said Jon Stahl, president of LeanDog, a technology firm that has made its headquarters on a boat in Cleveland Harbor for the past five years. Stahl says the boats are making a difference and feels that a clean waterfront is important for local business and the city’s waterfront development plan. “Most of our clients come from other cities, so we get many opportunities to show off Cleveland,” he said. “We have one chance at a first impression and it’s far better with this service.”
The boats operate from May through mid-October, creating a cleaner, safer water environment for everyone using the harbor and river — from pleasure boaters and rowers to lakefront businesses and tourists and even local wildlife. Since being launched again this spring, the vessels have filled 168 Bagsters with over 200 tons of floating debris. Jetsam has also towed another 60 logs greater than 20 feet long and 15” in diameter, dragging them out at the Edgewater Marina Boat Ramps for disposal. One tree was over 50 feet long and 30 inches in diameter. The vessels have captured off road tires and even a derelict floating dock.
“I really enjoy working on the boats,” said Glenn Hudson, one the DCA crew members. “DCA actually has a crew waiting list to do this job because people love being on the water and helping make the lake and river cleaner and safer. It’s a great feeling to be part of that.”
Fast facts on Flotsam and Jetsam
- Flotsam is the marine term for debris that floats off sinking vessels or falls into the water (such as trees upriver). Jetsam is the marine term for items that are thrown into the water.
- The boats have done cleanup for local events such as RiverSweep and the Tall Ships Festival, and helped with the aftermath following hurricane Sandy
- “Bagsters” are 4’ x 8’ x 36” and can hold up to 3 cubic yards of debris and 3,000 pounds each.
- The basket on Flotsam’s backhoe can carry up to 400 pounds of weight
- Jetsam’s crane can pull tree limbs weighing up to 4,000 pounds from the water
- Approximately 98% of the debris the boats pick up is organic material
- Of the manmade materials collected, roughly 80% is composed of plastic bottles
- The vessels are 25’10” length x 11’ wide (beam)
- Both are aluminum, have diesel powered outdrives, and weigh over 8 tons each
- Service speed is 6.5 knots an hour
- Since being commissioned in Fall 2012, the boats have picked up approximately 250 tons of debris.
- The Boat’s service area includes the Cuyahoga Ship channel, old river channel, and inside the breakwater of Cleveland Harbor.
- Boaters can contact the flagship, Jetsam, via the port operations marine channel – VHF 73
September 25, 2013
Just in time for fall bird migration, the Port of Cleveland and the Garden Club of Cleveland have partnered to open a new scenic overlook on the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve with dramatic views of downtown Cleveland. The Garden Club of Cleveland has given up to $50,000 to design and build the overlook, located at the northeastern edge of the preserve. “We see the addition of the scenic overlook as the perfect way to celebrate our centennial,” said Claudia Fulton of the Garden Club. “The Nature Preserve really fits with the Garden Club’s mission—it’s a trash to treasure story.”
The 88-acre Nature Preserve was formerly a facility for sediment dredged from the Cuyahoga riverbed to keep the river channel open. In 1999, material stopped being placed, and, over time, nature took over. A diverse mix of habitats includes grasslands, a forest area, meadows, mudflats, shrub lands, and wetlands evolved on the site, along with animals ranging from coyotes and minks to deer and a wide array of birds. Audubon Ohio has designated the Preserve as an Important Bird Area.
The new overlook was first envisioned through a master plan developed for the Environmental Education Collaborative (EEC), a group that included the Garden Club and others that formed to promote the use of Dike 14 as a recreation and bird watching spot and learning lab. The Port has been implementing ideas from the plan in stages, and worked with a landscape architect from the Cleveland Metroparks to lay out the overlook site.
“This is a great opportunity to bring more people, particularly students, to the Preserve, and we’re grateful to the Garden Club for helping to make it a reality,” said Linda Sternheimer, the Port’s development manager. The Port is discussing how to use the site for classes with the Shaker Nature Center and Cleveland Municipal School District.
The overlook plaza features brick pavers, an arbor with a trellis, benches, and a decorative iron railing. The ironwork was designed by renowned local artist Brinsley Tyrrell to provide an engaging visual narrative to visitors. “The goal was to tell the story of the site through our artwork,” said Tyrrell. “We’ve incorporated everything from lake vessels — a dredger, a barge, a tanker — to the creatures who now inhabit the preserve – butterflies, rabbits, minks, and, of course, birds.”
Tyrrell works with blacksmith Steve Jordan, and the pair’s previous collaborations can be seen around town at places like the Cleveland Botanical Gardens (butterfly gate), the West Park Police and Firefighter’s Memorial (decorative safety forces fence), and Mill Creek Falls Park (fence and bike rack). Tyrrell does the initial design, cutting, and bending of the iron, while Jordan handles all the welding.
The overlook is now open to the public, and Sternheimer and the Port hope it attracts even more nature lovers to the site. “It really provides an amazing, unique vista of downtown Cleveland,” she said. “The plaza can function as a small classroom, a place to stop for a break while on a hike, or just a welcoming spot to soak in the scenery and reflect on nature.”
To find more information on the Garden Club of Cleveland, click here.
To find out more about the artwork of Brinsley Tyrrell, click here.
September 25, 2013
Cleveland was founded because of our connection to the water. For over 200 years, our lake, river, and port have linked our local economy to the world, generating jobs, investment, and taxes that benefit our community immensely. The Port of Cleveland is committed to building on that strength in maritime commerce, which supports 18,000 local jobs, $1.8 billion in economic activity, and $112 million in state and local government revenues.
The Port has placed Issue 82 on the countywide fall ballot to continue its operations and support our local economy. The levy is a renewal, not a tax increase. If approved, the levy funds will exclusively support current Port work in maritime and economic development and not any other new initiatives.
Because Issue 82 is a renewal and not a tax increase, property owners will continue to pay about $3.50 per year for every $100,000 in home value. Our levy represents the smallest countywide property tax, but we always realize that these are real dollars for property owners. We take our duty seriously when investing those tax dollars to ensure the best return for our Cuyahoga County residents.
The Port’s impact on the local economy is exceptional. As the only local public agency devoted exclusively to economic development, the Port provides a strong return on your dollars. For each $3.50 the Port receives from property owners, it produces nearly $2,000 in economic impact. Large local employers like Ford Motor Company, ArcelorMittal Steel, and Lincoln Electric are all more competitive globally because of our strong port. On average, 13 million tons of cargo travel through Cleveland Harbor each year to support businesses throughout our county.
Our ultimate goal is to protect and grow the quality jobs and key commerce that depend on our waterways and an active port. Issue 82 will allow the Port to continue this important work on behalf of the people of Cuyahoga County.
June 27, 2013
It’s the season for boating, biking and baseball. But my mind is on Washington, D.C., where lawmakers and regulators have an enormous impact on the health of our nation’s ports and their ability to help keep cargo and our economy moving.
The Senate recently passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2013, and now the House of Representatives is developing its bill. While it may sound arcane, WRDA is a project and policy lifeline for ports. Early in its history Congress enacted legislation to provide for improved navigation in the United States. And today more than 185 years later, we still rely on Congress to ensure the Federal channel system is maintained so that the maritime-dependent companies – which are the bedrock of our economy – can prosper. As you may know, Holmes County Congressman Bob Gibbs is Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, and central to the water resources debate. We’re fortunate that he has taken a keen interest in maritime issues and gotten to know the Port of Cleveland.
It’s been six long years since the last WRDA bill was signed into law, and our nation needs new legislation – with the emphasis on new. We can’t maintain the status quo. We need legislation requiring that user fees assessed on cargo shipments are fully spent on their intended purpose, namely the maintenance of our nation’s channels and harbors. Today roughly half of the dollars collected are appropriated by Congress – and it is estimated that by the end of fiscal year 2014 the federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund will contain more than $9 billion. This is despite the critical need for more dredging and other maintenance work needed to achieve the competitive and efficient waterborne transportation system that countless companies depend on to move their manufactured, agricultural, construction and energy products.
We also need a WRDA that streamlines the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers procedures for evaluating and conducting maintenance and construction projects along our nation’s waterways. Today too many projects are stalled in a maddeningly protracted process, and as a result take years to complete. Here again, the status quo simply isn’t working – and we are gratified to see legislative proposals that, if passed, would make the Corps processes more timely and efficient.
Finally, I can’t sign off before raising one last federal issue, it’s an issue that goes well beyond any one piece of legislation. It is my strong belief that our region’s maritime system has been hampered by a myriad of government policies that, in some cases, have unintended consequences. We know that the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system, which connects the American heartland to Europe, is stunningly underutilized. I firmly believe that the problem rests far more with undue government influence than market forces. Frankly it is baffling to me. The European Union block has long recognized the need to balance out the movement of freight, and as a result you see a substantial volume of freight being shipped by water, freeing up road and rail capacity for people, while also benefiting the environment. But in our country we continue to spend billions on highway and rail projects to move freight without giving serious consideration to policies that would increase use of our vast waterway system and its tremendous capacity. To me this really is not rational. The country can’t afford to ignore its diminishing competitiveness in the maritime sector by postponing important legislative measures that can address aging infrastructure such as in our ports, through a WRDA, and in our U.S. merchant fleet, through new Marine Highway initiatives.
I don’t have illusions that the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system alone solves our highway and bridge problems, or replaces jobs lost over the years in our manufacturing sector. But we do need to take a rigorous and comprehensive look at the role the Great Lakes can play in moving goods and people. Forgetting that the Great Lakes help drive North America’s competitiveness and economy is a mistake that we also can’t afford to make.
If you’d like to discuss any of these or other issues further, I invite you to contact me with any questions or comments. And please encourage your colleagues and friends to subscribe to our eNewsletter (sign up at www.portofcleveland.com); follow us on Twitter (@portofcleveland); like us on Facebook (facebook.com/ThePortofCleveland); and join our online conversation on The Civic Commons (theciviccommons.com).
June 27, 2013
Port of Cleveland explores ways to help better position local businesses to compete globally
The Port of Cleveland is in a prime location. It is the first major American port of call for ships coming from Northern Europe into the Great Lakes. And it is far enough west to be a gateway into the American heartland. The Port is actively working to parlay that location into development of a new international service to benefit local companies competing globally.
“Our goal is to broaden the services we provide and become more attractive to local businesses,” said Port President and CEO Will Friedman. “We want to help them tap new markets, improve their supply chains, and better compete on a global scale.”
The Port is currently working to secure regularly scheduled vessel service between Cleveland and a European port. If that happens, the Port of Cleveland would be the first Great Lakes port with this type of ongoing “liner” service to Europe in many years.
While the Great Lakes have significant and consistent cargo shipments to Europe, the region has no regularly scheduled service. Instead it has what is known in the industry as “tramp service” – that is ships running on an as-needed basis similar to charter service at airports. In contrast, liner service is common and frequent at ports on the East, West, and Gulf Coasts.
One of the key benefits of a regular schedule is that businesses can plan their shipping around it. For companies that consistently move supplies and products – from large machinery to small consumer goods – around the world, even small improvements in efficiency can have big impact. And that’s where Cleveland’s location comes in.
Today, what many may not realize is that, given the earth’s sloping circumference, voyages to Cleveland from major European ports in Antwerp, Belgium and Rotterdam, Holland can take less time than the transatlantic trips to some East Coast ports such as Baltimore. “If you look at port-to-port transit time alone, we know that we are cost and time competitive,” said Friedman. “We are really in the sweet spot geographically.”
And Cleveland’s access to highways, major rail lines, and recently expanded on-dock rail system, make it even easier to transport cargo further inland, giving the city one more market advantage. Likewise, Greater Cleveland companies exporting to Europe would also benefit from a cost-effective and time-efficient liner service.
To help test the liner-service concept, the Port engaged a consulting firm that explored feasibility by interviewing local companies to determine demand, examining cost models for existing service lines and analyzing what it would take to grow the service. That study suggests that the liner service is worth pursuing.
“We knew anecdotally that Northeast Ohio and the rest of the state is a big market for exporting to Europe, and the consultant was able to verify that,” said David Gutheil, the Port’s vice president for maritime and logistics. “The report also confirms that the liner service would be cost effective and feasible.”
Today local companies are putting cargoes on trains and trucks, and shipping them to East Coast ports. But Friedman believes that they would prefer to use a local port – especially one that doesn’t suffer from congestion and delays.
“It’s partly a chicken and egg issue — should someone establish the liner service first to lock in the users, or do you get enough users set up and then launch the service?” said Friedman. “Either way, we believe it’s a critical service for our business community, and if we can pull it off, it will help us compete on a global scale.”
June 27, 2013
Dredging the Depths of the Cuyahoga Keeps Commerce Moving
Keeping the Cuyahoga River dredged for giant freighters is a finely-tuned operation that involves teams working in perpetual motion 24-7 to map the riverbed’s depth, scoop up sediment with giant claw buckets, and transport the sandy material by boat to sites just north of Burke Lakefront Airport. Join us as we go along for the ride.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for keeping the river’s ship channel deep enough for freighters carrying iron ore, cement, stone, asphalt and other cargoes that can be the lifeblood for area companies. That means removing enough sediment from the riverbed to ensure 23 feet of depth along the channel, and 26 feet at the mouth of the Cuyahoga. But the Corps does not perform the work itself – instead, it contracts the work out to companies such as Ryba Marine Construction Co., which is based in Cheboygan, Michigan and operates across the Great Lakes.
Surveying the Riverbed
Dredging typically occurs in the spring and fall. The process begins with the work of a hydrographic surveyor such as Ryba’s John Wilson, who travels up and down the 5.5 mile ship channel in a small boat equipped with sonar equipment and GPS mapping systems determining where to dredge. “The Corps maps the river to determine depth,” said Wilson. “We do our own mapping as well, and keep track everything we excavate.”
Dredging the Depths
With Wilson’s information in hand, a trained crew aboard a dredging barge (a platform-like boat with a crane on it) sets to work scooping sediment from the riverbed. Jason Wait is the certified crane operator on duty this day, maneuvering a 120-foot crane with a “clam” bucket that holds 15 cubic yards of sediment – about 1.5 times the volume of a standard dump truck load.
In a series of precise motions, Wait positions the crane, drops the bucket into the water (producing an impressive splash), grabs a “bite” from the riverbed, and drops the load into a scow (a hollow, bathtub shaped boat) roped to the barge. In a given location, the crane’s clam bucket takes 21 to 24 total bites at 3 different angles until the crew confirms it has reached the desired depth, using both visual cues and computer mapping
Once the desired depth is achieved, the dredging barge and scow move forward to the next site, about 30 to 50 feet away, where the process begins again. It takes vie to six hours to fill a scow with about 1,500 cubic yards of sediment – enough to fill 150 dump trucks.
Ryba uses three scows at once – as one is filled with sediment on the river, a second is unloading sediment into a lakefront landfill, known as a confined disposal facility (CDF), and the third is transiting between the two locations. This system helps keep work going non-stop, minimizing any wait for an empty or full barge at either end.
An empty scow floats about 15 feet above water, but when filled with roughly 2 million tons of sediment, that immense weight has pulled most of the scow under the surface. When that happens, the crew of a tug such as the Kathy Lynn takes over.
The Kathy Lynn arrives at the barge towing an empty scow, which it exchanges for the freshly loaded one. Then, it’s off to the CDF. Traveling no faster than six miles an hour – the maximum speed on the river – the tug needs anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes to travel the two miles from the mouth of the river to the lakefront CDFs north of Burke airport, assuming there are no holdups from boat traffic or bridge issues.
Tug Captain Dale Miller uses radio channel 16 (“the security channel”) to connect with bridge operators and other vessels on the Cuyahoga while moving the 250-foot long tug-and-scow toward Lake Erie. “Everyone on this river works together,” explains Miller. “There’s a lot of professionalism, and people do their best to keep things moving.” His crew work all over the Great Lakes, and Miller says that the Cuyahoga presents “unique challenges” due to its crooked path, and difficult passing areas such as Collision Bend.
Once at the CDF, Miller maneuvers the fully loaded scow into position, pushing it next to a crane on the shore fitted with a pump and vacuum hose. The pump shoots highly pressurized water into the scow, making it easier for the vacuum to suck and pump sediment into the CDF.
At the opposite end of the vacuum hose, a “defuser” (a flat metal fan shaped plate) is attached to spread the dredgings more evenly. As the pumping continues, Miller and crew hook up the empty scow to the tug, and the Kathy Lynn sets back to the dredging barge to begin the process all over again.
June 27, 2013
Rotary Club and Port of Cleveland partner for 2013 Tall Ships Festival
This Independence Day weekend, Greater Cleveland will welcome a convoy of majestic tall ships for a celebration of all things nautical. With vessels hailing from the Great Lakes, Canada, and even Europe, the Port of Cleveland 2013 Tall Ships Festival highlights the importance of maritime to Cleveland, both yesterday and today.
“The Tall Ships Festival connects people with our waterfronts and nautical tradition while demonstrating the ongoing importance of maritime to Cleveland,” said Beverly Ghent-Skrzynski, executive director of the Rotary Club of Cleveland, which is organizing the festival. “With no air show this year, our festival has stepped in on the July 4th weekend to offer a great family-friendly event to the community.”
Tall ships are fully functioning vessels built to replicate the historic ships that once plied the Great Lakes and beyond. During the festival, visitors can board the vessels, meet their crews, and learn about the nautical history and heritage behind them. Some of the ships will also offer 1.5 hour “Sail Away” voyages on Lake Erie during the day for anyone age six and older.
The festival kicks off on July 3rd with the Parade of Sail, when the tall ships enter Cleveland Harbor in grand fashion at full sail, an event that can be viewed by the public from Voinovich Park at the northern end of East Ninth Street in downtown Cleveland. For the next four days, the ships will be docked on the lakefront north and just west of First Energy Stadium.
“The Port of Cleveland is proud to be the title sponsor of this year’s Tall Ships Festival,” said Will Friedman, the Port’s President and CEO. “Clevelanders have a real passion for the water, and this event is another exciting way for everyone to find out more about our nautical history and experience the lake firsthand.”
Friday, July 5th is Port of Cleveland Day and Military Day, when individuals in the armed forces can come to the festival for free by attending in uniform or showing a valid military ID. “It’s our way of showing our gratitude to our troops,” said Friedman.
The Rotary Club is also encouraging anyone interested in viewing Cleveland’s Independence Day fireworks display to do so from the festival’s prime lakefront location. “It’s probably the best view you can get, in a great setting, and we are offering a reduced entrance fee of $5 after 5pm on the 4th,” said Ghent-Skrzynski.
The goal of the event is to showcase the Great Lakes rich maritime history, educate the public on the state of the lakes’ environment, and promote youth leadership through sail training. During the four-day festival, the Rotary Club hopes to attract 100,000 visitors and generate $15 to $20 million in economic activity for the community.
The ships in the festival feature a diverse set of crews, missions, and backstories. For instance, the Lynx is a schooner that replicates ships that fought on the Great Lakes in the War of 1812. The Unicorn was built from metals used in World War II-era submarines, and is the only tall ship in the world to have an all female crew. Its operator is dedicated to helping teen girls and women build confidence and leadership skills.
Some ships will arrive in Cleveland with teens from the Rotary Club’s Project YESS (Youth Empowered to Succeed Through Sailing) program, who will have just spent seven days sailing Lake Erie as crew members. Project YESS is a youth sailing and leadership development program for local teens and has a special focus on underprivileged youth. For participating students, the voyage on a tall ship will be the highlight of their summer, said Ghent-Skrzynski. “Our teens just love sailing into Cleveland on these majestic ships.”
The most historic ship visiting Cleveland is the Sørlandet, built in Norway in 1927 as a merchant marine training vessel. It now serves as a floating classroom for Class Afloat West Island College International a school based out of Nova Scotia, Canada that offers high school and college instruction as the ship sails between ports around the world.
“We provide a truly international experience,” said David Jones, president of Class Afloat. “This past year our students hailed from 10 countries and traveled to 22 ports on 5 continents. We are excited to sail into Cleveland and take part in the Tall Ships festival. Sørlandet is a beauty, and provides people with an authentic, historical sailing experience.”
With classes out for summer, Class Afloat and Sørlandet will arrive in Cleveland with a professional crew and 30 summer sail trainees ranging in age from 16 to 69 and interested in learning to sail on a tall ship. Jones said that this is Sørlandet’s first time in fresh water in 80 years, the last being when it served as Norway’s pavilion for Chicago’s world fair in 1933—the event’s only floating pavilion.
Ghent-Skrzynski encourages everyone to sign up for a Sail Away, get on board, and experience the tall ships firsthand. “You really feel the history on these ships,” she said. “When you stand on them and feel the wind off the water, it’s absolutely magnificent.”
For more information on the event or to purchase tickets, visit clevelandtallships.com. Special rates apply for children, seniors, military, and group sales. Discounted tickets are available at all Discount Drug Mart locations and at Petitti’s Garden Centers.
April 26, 2013
Port financing partnership brings millions in investment to distressed neighborhoods
Eight years ago the Port of Cleveland became the first port in the nation to be a sponsor of New Markets Tax Credits, bringing catalytic dollars and development projects to distressed local communities. Since then Steelyard Commons, Playhouse Square, Miceli Dairy Products Co., and others have collectively leveraged nearly $95 million in tax credit financing by working with a fund created by the Port and Ariel Ventures, a specialized public-private financial advisory company in Cleveland.
“The availability of New Markets Tax Credits was instrumental in moving forward on our expansion,” said Joseph D. Miceli, CEO of Miceli Dairy, a local cheese manufacturer with a national presence. “In fact, the tax credits served as a catalyst to finalizing the best possible financial package for our project.”
Miceli Dairy used New Market Tax Credits (NMTCs) obtained through the Port-Ariel partnership to expand its main production facility on East 90th Street in Cleveland. The $18 million project resulted in the creation of 50 new jobs and the adaptive reuse of 12 acres adjacent to Miceli’s original site. A second phase slated to begin this year will include more warehouse space and innovative technology that turns cheese by-products into energy used to power the facility.
All told the $95 million in NMTCs provided by the Port-Ariel partnership have generated hundreds of millions in private investment in local projects. The partnership – known as the Northeast Ohio Development Fund (NEODF) – fits well with the Port’s mission.
“The Port’s goal in this partnership is to facilitate creative economic development financing for unique projects in the region,” said Brent Leslie, the Port’s chief financial officer. “An added benefit is that our partnership with Ariel allows us to expand our product offering to companies beyond our traditional bond financing programs.”
Steelyard Commons was the first project to benefit from the partnership, using $32 million in NMTCs as the cornerstone of a $125 million investment that transformed a 125-acre brownfield into nearly a nearly 750,000 square-foot retail complex supporting an estimated 1,100 local jobs and $40 million in annual payroll.
“The NMTC program was indispensable to the financing for Steelyard Commons,” said Mitchell C. Schneider, president of First Interstate Properties, Ltd., which developed Steelyard Commons. “ The Port Authority has been a terrific partner and we believe that the allocation to this project was exactly the kind of development that the NMTC program was designed to promote.”
The federal government introduced the NMTC program in 2000 as part of the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act, Leslie said. Administered by the U.S. Treasury Department, the program spurs revitalization efforts in low-income and impoverished communities. To date, the NMTC program has awarded more than $36.5 billion in NMTC allocations across the country.
Each year, the Treasury Department awards an allotment of NMTCs to certified entities called “Community Development Entities” or CDEs. “Those CDEs can then raise dollars from private investors, who in turn can use the credits to reduce their tax burden over a seven-year period,” said Leslie. The Northeast Ohio Development Fund is a CDE.
For a project to benefit from the tax credits, it must be in a low-income census tract as defined by the poverty and unemployment levels. “These are areas where the private market would normally not invest because the risk is high and the rate of return is too weak to make the deals work,” explained Ariel partner Radhika Reddy. “The rents are just not high enough to obtain the required financing for the project, and tax credits fill in that gap to make the numbers work.” Reddy founded Ariel, a female-and minority-owned business in 2001, and then partnered with the Port in 2003 to form NEODF.
With the inception of the NMTC program, the Port and Ariel saw an opportunity to do something creative to spur economic development in distressed, low income, areas of Cuyahoga County. “The Port has a track record of economic development financing and facilitating complex development projects, and an ability to use its bonding authority to raise private capital for the projects,” said Reddy. “We saw them as a perfect partner for this work.”
Other projects that have received tax credits through the Port-Ariel partnership NMTCs include: Playhouse Square’s renovation of both the historic Allen Theater and the Middough Building; Corvalis Development’s mixed-use redevelopment of the Gospel Press building; the Geis Companies’ rehabilitation of the 7000 Euclid building in Cleveland as a healthcare technology incubator; and The Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging’s new home.
“We see this as a fantastic example of an innovative public-private partnership that has had a huge impact on the community,” Reddy said.
April 26, 2013
Cleveland’s salt mine: marking 50 years in ideal location under Lake Erie
Cleveland’s salt mine is both a feat of engineering and a hidden gem. Located 1,800 feet below Lake Erie, the mine is comprised of giant excavated tunnels 20-feet high, 45-feet wide extend four miles out from the shoreline. That’s where Cargill Deicing Technology extracts rock salt from a basin more than 300 million years old so that modern-day drivers can safely maneuver winter roads. Thanks to ancient geology, man-made transportation systems, and consumer demand, Cargill’s location in the heart of the city is ideal for mining salt.
“Just begin with the fact that it sits on one of the largest salt basins in the entire world, and you can see why Cleveland is a great place to mine,” said Richard Maxfield, president of Cargill Deicing Technology, which has owned and operated the mine since 1997, and doubled production since that time. “But that is one factor of many that attracted us to this mine.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the mine. But the salt basin itself is ancient. Formed more than 300 million years ago, it extends through parts of four states, explained Chris Gill, the Cleveland mine’s superintendent. “As the Appalachian Mountains formed, they cut off a section of the Atlantic, which evaporated and left behind massive salt deposits,” said Gill. “Over the millennia, normal buildup of soil and rock covered the salt, and those layers, in turn, were eventually covered by the glaciers which melted to form the Great Lakes.”
The mine’s location also has more contemporary advantages. It’s in the heart of the industrial snow belt, and unlike most other mines around the country, has ready access to three major forms of transport — boat, truck, and rail. That means Cargill and its employees can serve more markets. “We ship over a million tons by each mode annually,” Gill said. “This is possibly the most cost effective mine in the U.S.” All told the mine produces about four million tons of rock salt annually.
The Cleveland salt serves markets from Duluth, Minnesota to Montreal, Canada, with government users making up about 80 percent of the customer base. The rest are private contractors.
Travelling from the above-ground facilities on Whiskey Island to the active mining areas is an adventure for the uninitiated. Two elevator shafts provide access to the mine, one for workers and equipment, the other for salt to be hauled out. A five-minute ride down a shaft twice the height of Cleveland’s Key Tower takes workers down to a honeycomb of giant tunnels mine where they board “people mover” trucks for a 20-minute, four-mile ride out to the current work area. The mine is organized in a “room and pillar system” that leaves central pillars of salt to hold up the structure. Each room is 40 by 40 feet, and five mining units run simultaneously round the clock to open 40 acres of new mine annually.
Workers drill holes in un-mined areas then place explosives and blast salt free while also opening up new areas for excavation. Dump trucks then transport the salt back to the cargo shaft to be carried to the surface. “Our engineers and geologists perform ongoing seismic tests as we move out to ensure our workers’ safety,” Maxfield said.
Once brought to the surface, the salt is loaded on boats capable of carrying 15,000 tons each (about 7,500 full snowplow trucks worth). The vessels dock directly at the mine site during the May-to-December shipping season. Those ships then transport the salt to some of Cargill’s 80 terminals across North America. Salt is also loaded directly on rail cars to service additional markets.
Cargill is the largest outbound shipper along the Cuyahoga River ship channel. “We ship out 80 to 90 boats a year, with 10 of those heading up river to provide stockpiles loaded into trucks for local market, so we appreciate a strong partner in the Port,” said Gill. Those local stockpiles provide up to 200,000 tons (roughly 8,000 trucks full) of salt a day during the height of the winter deicing season, and Cargill provided half a million tons of salt for Ohio users in 2012.
Cargill Deicing Technology is a subsidiary of Minnesota-based Cargill International, the world’s largest privately held company. Cargill’s salt operations are headquartered in Cleveland, with 80 employees at its North Olmsted offices and 200 at the Cleveland mine. Another 400 are employed at mines in Louisiana and New York. “Cleveland is also a great place for a mine because of its accessibility to a high quality labor force,” said Maxfield. “In more remote mines, it’s difficult to attract this type of workforce.”
With 50 years under its belt, the Cleveland mine has many more to go. Maxfield estimates the mine’s useful life could extend another 75 to 100 years. “We look forward to our Cleveland mine being a top producer for generations to come,” he said.
- The Cleveland mine is part of a large salt formation known as the Salina Group that runs below parts of the Great Lakes region.
- The depth at which salt is found in the Salina Group varies from 800 feet to more than 6,000 feet.
- Lake Erie’s waters have an average depth of 50 feet above the Cleveland mine.
- Layers of shale, limestone, sandstone, and dolemite separate the mine from the lake.
- The layer of limestone at roughly 1,200 feet makes the mine a stable setting for excavation and provides an impervious cap that keeps from moisture seeping into the mine.
- A total of three salt layers exist below Lake Erie, the first unsuitable for mining, the second currently being excavated, and the third and lowest layer reserved for future use under Cargill’s 80-year lease with The State of Ohio.