'Inland ports' studied to boost state's logistics sector

The deserts of Nevada are at least a couple of hundred miles from the nearest ocean, but state officials are kicking around the idea of creating an "inland port" to solidify the state's position as a logistics hub.

Mike Skaggs, executive director of the Nevada Commission on Economic Development, says state officials snapped to attention when President Obama detailed his hopes to double American exports in the next five years.

Nevada, Skaggs noted, already has a strong position as a West Coast logistics hub a result of its location, its tax policy and a workforce that's skilled in transportation and distribution.

Those same strengths, Skaggs says, can help the state grab a growing share of the flow of foreign trade, both exports and imports.

"This is a really great staging area, whether it's for the West Coast or for all of Asia," Skaggs says.

After a series of legislative hearings on the logistics industry last year, lawmakers are considering a proposal to create "inland port authorities" in Nevada that could work with private companies and public agencies to create the infrastructure to handle large-scale flows of foreign trade.

One of the most important elements of the legislation, Skaggs says, is a provision that encourages local governments to work together in inland port authorities to act as a single source for all permits, allowing companies to move quickly.

He notes that developers of the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center east of Sparks have found success in part because Storey County has moved quickly to allow construction of new facilities, and the state hopes to make the practice more widespread.

Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson of Las Vegas, who played a key role in developing the concept of inland ports for Nevada, says he's following a model established in Dallas.

There, 12 governmental jurisdictions have joined forces to create the International Inland Port of Dallas across 234,000 acres that includes interstate highways and two major rail-to-truck intermodal facilities.

A bill before the Legislature (AB 182) would identify locations in Nevada with similar transportation attributes a major airport, interstate access, good rail service and encourage local governments to create inland ports around them.

As a practical matter, that limits development of inland ports to Reno and Las Vegas, the only two cities in the state with major airports.

The legislation would require the Commission on Economic Development to create a plan for development of inland ports and strategic investment in the necessary infrastructure. The commission's approval would be required for creation of any inland port authorities.

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