The Columbiana County Port Authority was created in 1977 by the County Commissioners. Its initial base of operation was a fifty-acre site on the Ohio River in East Liverpool purchased by the state and turned over to the Port Authority. The newly created Port Authority represented a public terminus on the Ohio River that connected to Lake Erie via the “Lake to River Highway’, State Route 11 built under the Governor Rhodes administration.
Today, the Port Authority owns and leases industrial plant complexes, barge/rail/truck cargo transfer facilities, and a fiber optic network in Mahoning and Columbiana Counties. Additionally the Port Authority owns and sells/leases property in two industrial parks, the Trade Park in Leetonia and the Intermodal Facility in Wellsville. The Trade Park and the Wellsville Intermodal Facility are all designated as Foreign Trade Zones.
The Port Authority has two primary responsibilities. They are (1) facilitation of cargo movement on the Ohio River, and (2) promotion of economic development in Columbiana County. In regard to cargo movement on the Ohio River, Columbiana County is geographically blessed as the northern most point of the Ohio River in the United States. We serve as a feeder port for the industrial base of the Cleveland/Pittsburgh corridor. Ohio ranks as the 24th largest economy in the World (if it were an independent country) and 43% of Ohio’s economic output is generated in NE Ohio. Ohio is the eighth largest maritime state in the U.S. by tonnage of cargo moved (two-thirds of Ohio’s borders are on navigable waters) and Columbiana County is Ohio’s largest river port system.
In regard to economic development our location is key. The county is located in the 4th largest population market in the U.S. i.e., the Cleveland-Pittsburgh corridor which itself is the only major population market geographically centered in the middle of 5 of the nation’s six largest population markets (NYC, Chicago, Cleveland-Pittsburgh, Philadelphia-Baltimore-D.C. and Atlanta; excluding LA). In the U.S., Ohio ranks Number 1 in the manufacture of plastics, machine tools and metal fabrications; Number 2 is steel and automotive production; Number 6 in aerospace and Number 12 in IT. Columbiana County is the 16th largest manufacturing county by jobs in the State of Ohio.
The Wellsville Intermodal Facility was constructed to facilitate multimodal cargo transportation. Completed in 2016, the project provides for the seamless transfer of cargo from multiple modes of transportation (river, rail, highway). River transportation provides an all season, low cost method of cargo movement. The standard barge tow on the river system carries cargo equivalent to 1050 semi-trucks. Barges can move one ton of cargo 576 miles per gallon of fuel compared to rail at 431 miles per gallon and to truck at 155 miles per gallon. Trucks emit 71.6 tons of CO2 per million ton miles, rail emits 26.9 tons and barge towboats 19.3 tons. In regard to safety, for every 1 injury by accident on a barge there are 125.2 injuries by rail and 2,171.5 injuries by truck. The cost for transportation over inland waterways is generally 3 times lower than other modes of transportation, translating into an annual savings of $7 Billion for American business.