State officials are once again looking for private investors to help bolster the Port of Wilmington as its infrastructure continues to age.
The package will involve the port itself and the privately owned Riveredge industrial park. Also included is the former DuPont/Chemours Edge Moor site bought by the port last year for $10 million.
Secretary of State Jeff Bullock, who also chairs the board of the Diamond State Port Corporation, says those may have to be pieced out individually. Regardless, he says the state can't continue to completely fund the port in a cost-effective manner.
“Our strategic plan indicated that taxpayers are going to have to invest as much as $300 million over the next 20 years just to maintain our current facility and that’s probably not a very good deal," Bullock said.
State lawmakers effectively killed the most recent attempt to lure private investment to the port.
In 2013, gas and petroleum juggernaut Kinder Morgan proposed a $200 million injection into the site, but the General Assembly narrowly passed a bill requiring legislative oversight of any deal to sell or lease the Port of Wilmington.
Union workers there worried they would lose their jobs due to automation or general layoffs and heavily lobbied lawmakers to block the deal backed by then Gov. Jack Markell (D).
Now, those that supported the law say they’re not completely against private investors – they just want to ensure a simultaneous expansion of blue-collar jobs.
“Let’s make these decisions, let’s get going, let’s get building, let’s get building. It’s been more than four years since we said no to one alternative – I didn’t mean that to indicate at all that we’re saying no to all our alternatives,” said state Sen. Bryan Townsend (D-Newark).
Port officials say they hope to have concrete proposals ready in the next two months.