WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Maritime Administration (MARAD) has made $12,423,000 available through the United States Marine Highway Program (USMHP), previously named America’s Marine Highway Program, to help improve the nation’s supply chain.
“America’s waterways serve as critical links in our nation’s supply chains,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “These investments in our marine highways will help to strengthen our supply chains, reduce emissions and create jobs across the country.”
The USMHP seeks to increase the use of America’s navigable waterways, especially where water-based transport is the most efficient, effective and sustainable option, a USDOT news release stated.
“Since the establishment of the marine highways program, MARAD has awarded more than $91.6 million in competitive grants to eligible organizations for marine highway services,” Maritime Administrator Ann Phillips said. “These grants have supported the development and expansion of marine highways, vessels, and landside ports and infrastructure, which are critical to building supply chain resilience.”
The USDOT will evaluate projects using criteria including the effect on movement of goods, level of non-federal funding investment, use of domestic preference, consideration of equity and environmental justice, according to the news release. The USDOT will also consider geographic diversity when selecting grant recipients, as well as how the project addresses challenges faced by rural areas.
Meanwhile, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has launched a supply chain initiative aimed at creating a more interconnected Kentucky economy by matching the state’s manufacturers and suppliers.
The goal of “Supply Kentucky” is to bolster job growth, reduce manufacturing costs and create more secure supply chains, the Democratic governor said.
Manufacturing is a crucial segment of the Bluegrass State’s economy, accounting for 12.5% of its workforce, compared to 8.1% nationally.
“We believe that this is the future,” Beshear said as he released the new business tool.
“It’s from company after company saying, ‘we need our supply chain base as close as possible.’ And our response being, ‘OK, let’s bring some of them to Kentucky, but are you willing to look at other Kentucky companies that are here right now?’ And the answer has been, ‘absolutely.’”
Frank Jemley, president and CEO of the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, said the initiative will provide companies with “access to one of the best tools in the marketplace” to help grow revenues, secure necessary supplies and enhance job security for their workers.
A new online platform provides a free searchable database of manufacturers and suppliers in the state, the governor said. Kentucky companies can register and search for other companies to do business with.
“This is a tool where they’re going to be able to get online and say, ‘I need need x or I need y. We’ve been having challenges with it,’” Beshear said at a news conference. “Here are all the Kentucky suppliers. And in a short drive, be able to be in their facility. To talk about what they need. To talk about their specifications.”
Supply Kentucky also will coordinate marketing efforts, provide workforce-related resources, foster growth of minority- and female-owned businesses and connect Kentucky companies to suppliers throughout the country when their supply needs can’t be met from within the state, Beshear’s office said in a news release.
In a statement, state Republican Party spokesman Sean Southard referred to the governor’s initiative as “window dressing” that “sounds like the bare minimum of what his administration should have already been doing.” Southard said the program comes “two years too late” — referring to the pandemic-related supply chain crisis that plagued the nation’s economy.
A dozen Republicans are competing in the May primary for a shot at trying to unseat Beshear. He and his lieutenant governor are the only Democrats holding statewide office in Kentucky, and his economic stewardship is a key part of his pitch for a second term.
The governor announced Monday that Kentucky’s annual unemployment rate sank to 3.9% for 2022, the state’s lowest rate since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting state jobless rates in 1976. Kentucky also has set record highs for job creation and private-sector investment during Beshear’s tenure.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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