Sunday, August 12, 2012
The Port of Monroe recently hired Paul C. LaMarre III as a full-time director.
This is notable for two reason.
First, he is the first full-time port director since 1978 when the late Max McCray left the post. Second, he seems particularly well-equipped for the tasks he faces.
Since Mr. McCray last held the post, port responsibilities have been handled and guided by a dedicated core of citizens, part-time officials and employees who juggled port tasks along with other responsibilities. Most recently, Port Commission Chairman Thomas Krzyston and Commissioner Dale Brose often had overseen day-to-day business, aided by the port’s part-time engineer and attorney.
A few years ago, the port was designated the City of Monroe’s economic development office, an arrangement that continued when the city hired a full-time community development director.
But with a gradually recovering economy, it soon became obvious that the pressing demands of community development, and growing interest in port investment, simply were too much and too complicated to be meshed into a single office.
Port officials put out the word, got a number of qualified candidates, and then interviewed the top prospects.
Mr. LaMarre, a Milan resident and most recently director of maritime affairs at the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, was hired for the job and seems eminently qualified. He has a bachelor’s degree in maritime transportation and logistics. He also has experience in procuring grants and coalition-building. He has been around ships and shipping since he was a kid and has generational ties to the Great Lakes.
Mr. LaMarre also was hired using resources within the port’s existing budget, not requiring a special appropriation or budget increase.
In his first weeks on the job, he’s been busy familiarizing himself with local firms, movers and shakers and assessing the area’s strengths and weaknesses. In the first couple of weeks, he began to zero in on what undoubtedly will be a major challenge — trying to change Michigan’s rules involving the required exchange of ship-ballast water from international freighters to minimize the risk of introducing new aquatic invasive species into the lakes.
Mr. LaMarre said Michigan’s restrictions are the most stringent in the Great Lakes and are hurting shipping to Michigan from abroad. He makes a compelling argument, but the ballast water rules were long debated and contested before becoming law. Mr. LaMarre at least understands the formidable challenge it would be to change that law.
Regardless, the addition of a full-time port director seems well-timed. The slowly recovering economy, including the auto industry, is boosting Great Lakes freight. More firms now seem willing to consider investing in Monroe County. And two major tenants, Ventower Industries and Barnhart Crane & Rigging have settled recently at the port. Gerdau continues to invest heavily in its steel mill at the port.
The port’s strategic location, its available land and buildings, and now the new talent in the port office comprise a fortuitous tide that might raise the port’s economic fortunes.