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Cairo finally gets its due

Wednesday, Aug 5, 2020

* WPSD

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker made several stops in southern Illinois on Tuesday. One of those stops was in Cairo, where the governor announced the state will provide $40 million through the Rebuild Illinois capital plan for a port at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

Cairo has been working on the port development for eight years. Now, the community is one step closer to making the project a reality. The port project is expected to create at least 500 jobs and bring in more than $100 million in economic activity.

The development will be one of the largest investments in southern Illinois in decades. Leaders hope the project will make Cairo a national hub for the shipping industry.

“This port project has the potential to represent the very best of our state’s future. This is more than just a port. It’s fuel for new jobs and economic prosperity all across the region. A region that’s been left out and left behind for far too long,” said Pritzker.

* The Southern

Pritzker and State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, said there were real dollars coming with Tuesdays announcement. Fowler remarked that the port project is a real line item in the state’s recently-passed capitol bill, which allots funds for various development and improvement projects throughout the state.

Immediately, the state will give $4 million in grants for the project, but a total of $40 million has been allocated to fund the design and development of a river port that has been in the works for nearly a decade. This is about $35 million short of the $75 million that was hoped for, but, as previously reported by The Southern, the rest will be leveraged by private investors. […]

[Pritzker] added that 80% of the country’s river traffic passes by Cairo every day, making it an ideal shipping and transportation hub.

Fowler, since being elected to his seat in 2016, has taken Cairo’s revitalization as a personal project. He has said on more than one occasion, Tuesday included, that the port will be a shot in the arm not just to the city but for the region. A total of 500 direct jobs will be generated when the project is complete, Fowler and Pritzker said Tuesday.

Sen. Fowler deserves so much credit for pushing this project forward. While the concept predates his legislative service, he’s turning it into a reality. He’s a throwback to a time when southern Illinois politicians worked hard to bring things back to their districts. And Cairo isn’t exactly Republican turf. Good for him.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

59 Comments
  1. - Blue Dog Dem - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 9:41 am:

    Does anyone one know if the grocery store opened back up? Or is it still just a dollar general?


  2. - Chris Widger - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 9:47 am:

    ==He’s a throwback to a time when southern Illinois politicians worked hard to bring things back to their districts.==

    Only in Illinois can fighting for pork for your district be seen as an unmitigated good, and not as a perversion of how government ought to work.


  3. - Mama - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 9:50 am:

    ==Does anyone one know if the grocery store opened back up? Or is it still just a dollar general? ==

    It might help if you include the name of the town..


  4. - Jake Jacobs - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 10:04 am:

    Cairo and surrounding areas need all the help they can get. Good to see bipartisan efforts on this grant.


  5. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 10:06 am:

    === He’s a throwback to a time when southern Illinois politicians worked hard to bring things back to their districts. And Cairo isn’t exactly Republican turf. Good for him.===

    Love that.

    You had downstate Dems working with Thompson and Edgar and it was good for all, bipartisanship towards making the whole state better.

    Great example to of the singular, the voting and doing for their district, regardless of the Governor, and knowing the importance of not consistently voting against their district or its growth to curry favor of the politics. Love it

    To the Post and the project,

    Shipping and Cairo seems like the most natural partnership, with a history on its side, and location as it’s asset. This makes the region stronger and the state better, and I hope other legislators recall the times where governors and legislators of opposite parties found that helping a region and district is good governing and good politics.


  6. - levivotedforjudy - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 10:08 am:

    Kudos for the team behind this project. This has been decades in the making. Cairo and Pembroke Township are two of the most challenged communities I have ever seen from an economic development standpoint, and this is from someone who was raised in East St. Louis.


  7. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 10:10 am:

    Good for the senator, to bring development to the district. The capitol bill is so very important for the state’s future. Public goods and improvements don’t come for free. Heaven forbid we should have to pay for them.


  8. - Benjamin - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 10:16 am:

    @Mama: I do believe the town under discussion was Cairo.


  9. - CubsFan16 - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 10:17 am:

    Awesome news.


  10. - Cool Papa Bell - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 10:21 am:

    If you can’t get down Highway 51 into Cario just go look at it from Google earth. Its shocking to see to town and think that it’s in Illinois or even the United States.

    But it’s at a very valuable intersection of geography with the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. 80 percent of the nations barge traffic floats by it everyday. Add in Cario stays ice free all year.

    The barge industry is in need of a strong multi-modal port and I hope this can be it. Illinois needs it and so does deep southern Illinois.


  11. - illinoyed - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 10:22 am:

    No grocery store open in Cairo now, no gas station or sit down restaurants open either.


  12. - Isbell - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 10:27 am:

    We sure are proud of our Senator, Dale Fowler. His passion for the community and love for people are unmatched.


  13. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 10:37 am:

    ===Only in Illinois can fighting for pork for your district===

    1) You think pork is confined to Illinois? You need to get out more.

    2) You think this is pork? No need at all? No reason for the government to partner with business to address a very real infrastructure need? Seriously?


  14. - ChattyHam - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 10:53 am:

    @illinoyed- Did Shemwell’s (sit down BBQ joint) close?


  15. - Blue Dog Dem - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 11:02 am:

    Shemwells had(has) the second best pulled pork in the USA. Only behind Bills in Metropolis.


  16. - Red Ranger - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 11:13 am:

    What a great example of how things are supposed to work. Good on both the Gov and Sen Fowler. There is no better champion of deep southern IL than Sen Fowler. Some of Sen Fowler’s colleagues should take notes


  17. - 1st Ward - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 11:30 am:

    Good to hear. I’m curious to see what other investments/projects come of this. With Chicago being a logistics hub and Amazon purchasing a lot of warehouses off the highways in the burbs/south Chicago area will something similar happen near Cairo if 80% of river traffic moves through this area? Any idea on when the project will be complete?


  18. - Annonin' - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 11:33 am:

    Good for Fowler
    This about the 10th this has been announced. Big dif is $$$. Not sure how much has IL as a port of origin or destination — a big reason for a port — but there has been a very large cement operation just upriver there might be something to put on the barges.


  19. - Regular democrat - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 11:40 am:

    A 40 million dollar investment to increase real tangible commerce is not pork. Government teaming with private interests is not pork. Good for them good for the area. I live 350 to 400 miles away and I’m happy for the area.


  20. - sulla - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 11:42 am:

    “Only in Illinois can fighting for pork for your district be seen as an unmitigated good, and not as a perversion of how government ought to work.”

    The elimination of earmarks at the federal level has been a complete disaster. Gone is the primary vector for horse trading and compromise between the two parties. And it didn’t curtail federal spending one bit.


  21. - flea - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 11:50 am:

    Cairo is a long overlooked port with global reach potential for Illinois/midwest agricultural commerce. Great investment.


  22. - Friend of the Family - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 11:55 am:

    For anyone who has spent any time in the region, they know that this is a great idea and good use of money.


  23. - Proud Sucker - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 12:13 pm:

    ===with a history on its side, and location as it’s asset.===

    Spot on. It was the most important brown water depot in the Civil War until New Orleans was recaptured. The levees on the Ohio side ran north for a mile. The reason it was important then is the reason it should still be important now. As noted, something like 80% of all barge traffic passes on one side or the other.

    Great work by Sen. Fowler and Gov. Pritzker.


  24. - Mike - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 12:15 pm:

    I represented the Black United Front of Cairo, back in the late 70’s, and got to see (and feel) the history of the place. Hope the project is a big success.


  25. - Merica - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 12:27 pm:

    Cairo and Alexander County have lost population each and every year since 1920. The county population is 8,000, and mainly older people.

    Now, another example of shifting money from Chicago taxpayers to rural areas. Chicago taxpayer money, $5,000 to each resident of Alexander County. Give Alexander County $1B, few will move there.

    We should be investing money in areas where people
    want to live, not areas people don’t want to live, and we shouldn’t take money from Chicago and give it to
    someone else. We need to spend money revitalizing the african american and hispanic american areas of the city, populations that have been neglected. But there’s always an excuse not to do that.


  26. - Blue Dog Dem - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 12:33 pm:

    I pray that this port district doesn’t end up in an enterprise zone or a tif district. There is practically zero livable housing left in Cairo, so I suspect most of the new employees will live and spend their money elsewhere.


  27. - 4 percent - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 12:44 pm:

    @Merica

    I’d kindly note that Chicago’s highest population was in the 1950s and has since declined. Almost every census since 1960 has recorded a drop in population – sometimes as much as 10% in a decade – as the city’s population gradually moves outwards to the more hospitable surrounding suburbs.

    So, are you advocating to take money away from Chicago?

    This is a great announcement for a rural area of Illinois.


  28. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 12:44 pm:

    ===Now, another example of shifting money from Chicago taxpayers to rural areas.==
    We do that anyways. We’ve been doing that for years.
    === We should be investing money in areas where people
    want to live, not areas people don’t want to live,===
    500 new jobs. Plus those 500 people will have families, the families will want to go shopping, maybe eat out after a Covid-19 vaccine is found, etc. Maybe people will want to live there after all.
    === We need to spend money revitalizing the african american and hispanic american areas of the city, populations that have been neglected. But there’s always an excuse not to do that.===
    We should do that too.


  29. - Merica - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 12:48 pm:

    4 Percent - the Chicago metro area has increased in population every year since 1920, and now makes up 78% of the population of the State. The chicago metro area also makes up 80% of the State’s GDP. Downstate residents get $3 for every $1 they pay in taxes. or at least they used to, that will change.


  30. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 12:54 pm:

    ===Downstate residents get $3 for every $1 they pay in taxes.=== Yeah I know, I know but look we’re all Illinoisans. We gotta help each other.


  31. - 1st Ward - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 12:55 pm:

    “We should be investing money in areas where people want to live, not areas people don’t want to live, and we shouldn’t take money from Chicago and give it to someone else.”

    If 500 direct jobs are created at $50,000 per employee that’s $1.25MM annually in state income taxes, not to mention corporate, employer, property and sales taxes, and fees for the state and region. Not to mention the indirect jobs that will be created and other long-term investments that a project like this will attract.

    This will drive population growth. The money is not wasted and a positive ROI will occur. Carbondale and Marion are an hour away. People don’t have to live directly in Cairo.


  32. - Blue Dog Dem - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:01 pm:

    Regrettably wickliffe, KY is 8 mins away and Sikeston,MO is 30 mins away..its hard to write in residency hiring standards, but in this case it would be nice.


  33. - 1st Ward - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:05 pm:

    “Downstate residents get $3 for every $1 they pay in taxes.”

    Cite your source. I bet this is inaccurate after factoring in muni bond tax breaks, state/county roads/highways that are downstate benefit Chicago, TIF dollars, pensions, etc.


  34. - SOIL M - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:05 pm:

    Shemwells had to close a few weeks ago, when a car ran through the side of the building. The owners do plan to rebuild. They hope to be able to make repairs to the existing building rather than have to build new. The reason for that is to try and keep one of the few remaining open pits working. If they have to build new, they wouldnt be able to have open pit in the kitchen again.
    Still no grocery store, just 2 Dollar Generals, with plans to build a new building to replace the one in town.
    To the post.
    Thank you to Sen. Fowler and Gov. Pritzker. This has been a project that Sen. Fowler has put many hours and a lot of work into since elected in 2016. Yes, the Port Board was there for many years, but very little work had been done until Fowler recommended naming four new members to Gov Rauner to sit on the Board. The addition of those four Members working with Sen. Fowler has done more in three years to move this along than in the twenty previous years, so credit goes to them also.
    Sen. Fowler has been, and continues to be a huge improvement for Cairo, Alexander County, and the rest of his District. While ths Port has recieved much of his attention, he has worked on other projects in the area also, and should see more announcements coming. His work last year during the flooding and recovery was immense. So much so that the Governors office got where they would do anything to keep him from calling on behalf of Alexander County again. He put in many long hours and could be counted on to assist anytime, day or night. On another front, Fowler Foundation has also helped several people in the area when needed also.
    As this Port continues to move forward his help will continue to be,an asset.


  35. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:07 pm:

    === Regrettably wickliffe, KY is 8 mins away and Sikeston,MO is 30 mins away..its hard to write in residency hiring standards, but in this case it would be nice.===
    Naw. Come on, no need to be unfriendly neighbors. People from Kentucky an Missouri can stop and get groceries and something to eat and spend money here. We need to look at the whole area as an economic entity.


  36. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:09 pm:

    - 1st Ward -

    https://capitolfax.com/2017/08/14/whos-bailing-out-whom-these-county-numbers-might-surprise-you/


  37. - Candy Dogood - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:10 pm:

    Cairo isn’t in my district and I think this is a great project. I am happy to have any portion of the taxes I pay be dedicated to a project that will help revitalize an economy in an area that is suffering for lack of development and infrastructure.

    The benefits of the project are realistically stated and provide a significant boon to our national infrastructure in general.

    I am still upset that no one has been held accountable for the millions in public funds that were effectively siphoned away from their purpose by folks that didn’t support or maintain the public housing in the area, but this is a good move.


  38. - SOIL M - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:12 pm:

    Sorry to get a little windy here, but another important point has been made. This Port alone, will not bring a large increase in population. Currently there are people from as far MT. Vernon, to Poplar Bluff MO., all across So. IL., We. MO., West KY., and even NW TN., who drive to Cairo everyday to work and drive home again. While this project and the jobs and tax base it brings is a vital part, it is not the entire answer to the problem. More work is needed to bring young working families back to Cairo, and raise a family here. This is a big start, but not the entire answer.


  39. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:17 pm:

    ===This is a big start, but not the entire answer===

    Government cannot be the entire answer.


  40. - Blue Dog Dem - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:17 pm:

    SOIL M. What if any tax incentives is the port district receiving, and if so, for how long. Is the port going to be on which side?


  41. - SOIL M - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:25 pm:

    Rich— Entirely spot on correct. And Cairo is a great examaple of trying for a few decades to rely solely on Government to answer every problem. The work to bring this also included the work of a few local individuals, who have put in a load of work the last few years, deserve credit also. My hope is this will bring the attention of more private investment to the area also. There is interest already for when this Port opens.

    Blue Dog— Sorry, I dont have that information right off the top of my head and not able to look it up right now. It will be on the Missippi side.


  42. - SOIL M - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:30 pm:

    https://www.alexandercairo.org/


  43. - Central Illinois - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:32 pm:

    I had to travel to Cairo for work one day back in 2010. The condition of the town was depressing. Buildings were empty and crumbling. There was no gas station and only one restaurant I was able to find. This is sorely needed.

    Merica- residents pay taxes, not cities or counties (or states for that matter). Using your logic, each resident should receive state services in direct proportion to the amount of taxes he/she paid to the state. Interesting concept.


  44. - Blue Dog Dem - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:32 pm:

    shame to hear about Shemwells. Truly a legendary eating establishment.


  45. - 1st Ward - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:34 pm:

    thanks OW. Most of that has to do with cost of living thus higher wages in cook and collar counties compared to downstate.

    Density helps as well as you don’t have to build as many state/local government buildings per capita just make the ones you are building bigger.

    Outside of McLean the state university counties get more than they receive makes sense.


  46. - Porter McNeil - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:42 pm:

    Great to see this public investment that can generate private-sector investments in a region in desperate need of growth. Regions - all of them - can be economic engines with the right combination of public/private investments. Governor Pritzker - job well done.


  47. - the Patriot - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:46 pm:

    Quinn made the same promise 10 years ago and the state did nothing. Basic Madigan move, victory lap on a promise, it never hits the budget. 10 years from now another Democrat Governor will make the same promise.

    Cairo is the biggest embarrassment to this State. No industrialized nation has the confluence of its two largest rivers a wasteland except us. No economic activity and the crime is worse than the worst area of Chicago. And no, there are no stats because no on even bothers to call the police anymore.


  48. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:51 pm:

    === Cairo is the biggest embarrassment to this State. No industrialized nation has the confluence of its two largest rivers a wasteland except us. No economic activity and the crime is worse than the worst area of Chicago. And no, there are no stats because no on even bothers to call the police anymore.===

    Good thing that’s changing with bipartisan help.

    You’re happy, right… or a lazy partisan?

    === Most of that has to do with cost of living===

    No. It has to do with which are takers and which are donating to the takers.


  49. - Candy Dogood - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 2:05 pm:

    ===We should be investing money in areas where people want to live===

    Cairo was founded where it is because of the rivers meeting. Cairo remains where the Ohio and Mississippi meet.

    Whether or not people want to live there doesn’t impact where the Ohio and Mississippi meet. The times in my life where I’ve gotten to live where I wanted to live instead of where I needed to live for work, school, or family support are zero.

    The fact is that I want to be there for work, school, or family support. This is my economic reality. Perhaps someday I shall own my Tuscan villa, but people move to where the jobs are. Sometimes the jobs have to be where the opportunity is, and the opportunity is Mississippi and Ohio rivers meeting.

    ===SOIL M - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 1:05 pm:===

    If you’re one of Senator Fowler’s in-district staff, I get it. The Senator’s involvement in the project that is at least a decade old at this point isn’t diminished by acknowledging that the legislation for Public Act Public Act 096-1015, the Alexander-Cairo Port District Act, was enacted in 2010 with Senator Forby and Representative Phelps as the chief sponsors in their respective chambers. A lot of people have been working on this project for a significant amount of time, trying to grandstand credit isn’t a good look. This is one of those things where everyone’s earned the ovation and it looks bad to try to snatch laurels.

    Similarly, it’s the Fowler-Bonan Foundation, and it’s most recognizable program involves soliciting donations from other contributions. Plus if I were in Senator Fowler’s shoes, I would be doing everything I could to avoid folks speculating about the source of my wealth after I spent almost all of my career drawing a public salary and in the era of heightened ethics concerns, I wouldn’t want anyone really closely examining my relationship as an employee of Peoples National Bank, either.

    So sometimes it’s best to not lob unnecessary stones just because there was a positive press hit.

    https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/96/PDF/096-1015.pdf


  50. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 2:11 pm:

    Wow so this was ten years in the making. Thanks. Nuggets like this is why I love this blog.


  51. - SOIL M - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 2:18 pm:

    Candy— I am not involved in anyway with Fowlers staff, sorry. The facts are, yes, the Port Authority was formed, several years ago. They had a few meetings and made no progress. That changed in 2017 when Gov Rauner appointed 4 new members to the board to replace 4 appointed by Quinn. Including rhe current Chairman who deserves as much credit as anyone. The assistance given by Sen Fowler has also been a huge improvement. So yes, it was formed in 2010, but the work that has moved it forward didnt start until after the 2016 election. Fowler has worked on it where Forby talked about it. And in 2016 I voted for Forby. As for the Foundation, yes I know the legal name of it. I also know families who have benefited from it when they lost everything when their homes burnt. So sorry, if it offends you to note a little support for a foundation that has done that.


  52. - Candy Dogood - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 3:01 pm:

    ===SOIL M - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 2:18 pm:===

    Some days all we can do is lead a horse to water.


  53. - Leigh John-Ella - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 3:04 pm:

    Merica, you switched from advocating for Chicago to talking about the Chicago Metro area. Big difference. Are you calling for the state to give millions to Naperville and other growing, desirable ‘burbs? You must have loved Senate President Pate Philip’s tenure.


  54. - Olmsted - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 3:07 pm:

    Jerry Shea, after leaving the G.A. and as a lobbyist for Chicago interest drafted the original legislation for the Port Authority on the Ohio River side…Phelps got it passed in the House and after study– local support dropped off and Senate Ralph Dunn managed to kill the legislation . All around 1989.
    When Dunn retired the Chicago group reintroduced the legislation and it passed. The legislation for the Port on the Mississippi River–separate Issue—keep in mind 2 ports for Alexander Co.


  55. - the Patriot - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 4:09 pm:

    ==Good thing that’s changing with bipartisan help.==

    Nothing is changing. Madigan and his last Governor made the same promise 10 years ago and did nothing. JB needed a presser in a place no one will check to see if he did anything. Done.

    Not that the feds have done their part.


  56. - Cool Papa Bell - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 4:11 pm:

    @Merica = We need to spend money revitalizing the african american and hispanic american areas of the city, populations that have been neglected. But there’s always an excuse not to do that. =

    Cairo is 71% African American. Looks like tax dollars being spent to help revitalize a largely black community.


  57. - Blue Dog Dem - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 5:40 pm:

    time will tell.


  58. - Present - Wednesday, Aug 5, 20 @ 8:23 pm:

    Going south for vacation. Told everyone I wanted to go to Cairo. They were taken aback. I’m looking forward to it. The history and area have been neglected.


  59. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Thursday, Aug 6, 20 @ 6:41 am:

    === Merica, you switched from advocating for Chicago to talking about the Chicago Metro area. Big difference.===
    Nope. Most people say Chicago when they mean the metro area. Only people from Chicago metro area make a distinction. If you visit Berlin or Tokyo and you’re from Naperville you’re from “Chicago.”


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