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SEPT. 6, 2017


Thank you Lauren. I’m proud to welcome our friends from Paducah to Washington, D.C. I send greetings from our new Transportation Secretary Elaine L Chao. I know you are all good friends with her and her husband, Senate Majority Leader McConnell.

I‘ve only been on board as Maritime Administrator for about three weeks, but I’ve heard about your community and its unique qualities.   And I’m very aware of the incredible maritime resources that you’ve worked to develop.

I have spent much of my life at sea, aboard military vessels, but with my roots in the merchant marine, I have a good appreciation for the importance of our nation’s inland waterways. I understand their importance to both our national security and economic prosperity – and know that Secretary Chao certainly does as well.

The fact is, Paducah is an historic, and important regional freight hub. We will continue to support your efforts to maximize these assets for your region and for our nation.

As I am sure you heard yesterday, we awarded a Small Shipyard Grant to National Maintenance and Repair so that they could fund a new lathe and plasma cutting machine.  We were very pleased to do so, and know that that grant will have a very positive effect on that company’s productivity.  They were one of 15 awardees from among 95 who applied.

For those who don’t know much about me or my background, I always start by telling folks that my very first breath of air was of salt air. I was born in Atlantic City, a block from the ocean.  I had my sea command when I was nine. I used to wear my dad’s old Navy cap around the neighborhood, and I spent my youth fishing and exploring the back bays of South Jersey, literally counting the days before I could head out to sea.

From that young age, I never wavered for one second in my desire to serve my country, or in my love for ships and mariners… First in the Navy, in a 34-year military career… and then supporting the military services and federal and commercial transportation industry as the President of the National Defense Transportation Association.

I have been the luckiest guy in the world to serve aboard some great ships, and work alongside many quality shipmates and commanders — too many to count. And to have the privilege of commanding the Navy’s Military Sealift Command.

Throughout that time, I have always stressed three leadership points as my steering stars:  take care of your people first — be a professional — and be a good shipmate.

It is how I intend to lead the maritime administration, and it is how I plan to engage with each of our strategic maritime partners, like the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce. I regard all of you as a United States maritime community of the first order.

As I said, I’m learning about some of the things that make your community unique, and your region strategically important in our nation’s heartland.

Your Paducah-McCracken County Riverport is the strategic center of a very valuable and impressive complex of integrated ports, multi-modal connectors, and productive inland waterways. It is a model for the rest of the country.

Last year the former secretary of transportation designated the “Paducah-McCracken container on barge marine highway project,” which promises significant commercial and industrial benefits region wide. It will move cargo to-and-from the Gulf of Mexico year-round.

Our marine highway routes bring life – jobs, commerce, resources and resiliency– to dozens of communities across multiple states. They are vital arteries for domestic and international freight movement.

I’ve also learned that Paducah is home to more U.S.-flag inland waterway operators than anywhere else in the nation. That’s quite a distinction. And you have a great community college that provides coursework and hands-on mariner training. I was fascinated to hear that Paducah has been designated as a “Unesco City of Crafts and Folk Art,” and is known as a mecca for … quilting.

Lauren Brand tells me that there are some great opportunities for you to leverage this renowned art center hub with your intermodal freight assets. And possibly create some additional economic benefits for the community.

Our team is looking forward to the upcoming “River Strong” summit in Paducah, and with helping you network with potential manufacturers and business partners.

It is very clear to me that Paducah has a very bright future as a freight – and cultural – hub for a significant region of country. Congratulations to you all for demonstrating what can happen when you think out of the box, and work together to utilize your community and maritime resources for maximum impact.

Thank you for having me. I look forward to working together in years to come.

Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2018