SAVANNAH -- Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Thursday told more than 600 business leaders here not to be worried that President Barack Obama’s most recent budget proposal contained no significant funding for the dredging of the Port of Savannah – that the federal cash is a matter of when, not if.
“Don’t be concerned about it a bit,” Reed said. “We are doing things in an orderly fashion.”
Reed, a Democrat, has become the point man in a Republican state’s effort to find $660 million in federal funding to deepen the port so that it can accept larger cargo vessels – Georgia’s top economic priority.
Reed was the first mayor of Atlanta ever to address the Savannah Economic Development Authority’s annual meeting – a sign of how important his relationship with Republicans in the state Capitol has become.
Former Georgia Ports Authority chairman Steve Green introduced Reed as the man who made the deepening of the channel a topic of conversation at the White House – at Green’s personal request.
While the dredging project has yet to see significant federal cash, Reed reviewed what the bipartisan alliance has accomplished. “We’ve gotten 101 approvals across four departments of the United States government – including approval from the Army Corps of Engineers,” Reed said.
President Barack Obama last year named the dredging project a top infrastructure priority, the mayor pointed out. Reed said he raised the topic with Obama again during the president’s Sunday visit to Atlanta, where he delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College.
“I won’t lie and say that it was the first thing that we talked about, but I did make sure that I talked to him about it,” Reed said. But the mayor said Obama mentioned the port project on his own later in the day – at a private fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The crowd rewarded Reed with enthusiastic applause.
“We grow together, you all,” Reed said. “And when you look around the port at what’s been done in the three years that I have been mayor and the time that Nathan Deal has been governor, it shows what can happen when people work together on the things that they agree on.”
In a conversation with reporters, Reed declined to say when federal money for the dredging might arrive – or how much would be allotted.
“What I believe is going to happen is we’re going to receive a significant funding to move forward with construction,” Reed said. “A large enough appropriation so that the government can’t walk away from the project.”
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