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But an empty patch of freshly bulldozed dirt is the first spot at the sprawling Garden City Terminal that Griffith Lynch, the executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, wants to show off.
That is the site of a new $127m rail depot that will enable double-decker trains as long as the National Mall to be loaded right at the port. It is one piece of a larger vision that Lynch contends Savannah is uniquely positioned to achieve: Shippers here will be able to deliver goods to Midwestern cities in the time it takes other ports to finish heaving cargo off a boat.
The salesmanship is not just boasting. The nation’s fourth-busiest gateway, the state-run Savannah port has tripled its traffic since 2000, bathing the region in tens of thousands of jobs. It has helped draw the manufacturing operations of foreign automakers to the region, and has a reputation for big ideas and nitty-gritty efficiency.
“I repeatedly hear that this is the best port in the country,” said George Powers, president and chief executive of TradePort Logistics, who has been talking to scores of shippers as he scouts business for a new 100-door loading facility and a 650,000-square-foot fulfillment center he’s building near the port.
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