House Speaker visits Morehead City Port

MOREHEAD CITY, CARTERET COUNTY (WITN) House Speaker Tim Moore paid a visit to eastern Carolina on Monday to get a firsthand look at the impact state investments are making at North Carolina ports.

As Moore met with workers and port officials in Morehead City, raw rubber imports -- used to support the tire industry in North Carolina -- were being unloaded off of a ship from Singapore.

"Ports are the way you receive about 90% of your foreign imports. So here, having this port here in North Carolina is significant," Speaker Moore explained.

On the other side of Moore, what's known as "pig iron," being loaded onto a barge to be exported out.

The goods that come-and-go are often taken for granted.

"There are folks who drive every summer to the beach on this road, who have no idea the amount of economic activity that's happening right off to the side of them," boasted Moore.

And the men and women that drive that economic activity, are evidence of the commitment to invest by the state.

Monday was Moore's first opportunity in Morehead City to get a first-hand look at the operations aided by a $45 million allotment from the General Assembly.

One return on that investment is the first new crane at the port since 1968.

"Many, many years ago it wasn't profitable. But that's changed and really a lot of that is because of the amount of capital investment that's come in to modernize the port," Moore added.

What once generated little to no revenue, is now an economic driver for the state.

"Ultimately our objective, our mission, is to support the economy of North Carolina. And by being able to provide these services, we reduce the cost of moving goods in and out of the state," explained Brian Clark, the North Carolina Ports Chief Operating Officer.

Clark says annual tonnage in Morehead City has doubled since 2014.

"It's been a great job by the commercial team to build the business, to attract the volumes to support both the imports and exports that are moving out of North Carolina," added Clark.

And with more than 87,000 jobs statewide, it's the fastest growing port system in the United States.

NC Ports has committed to a $200 million dollar capital improvement plan to help upgrade and modernize the ports to meet the increasing demands of their customers worldwide.

The new crane showcased on Monday cost roughly $6.5 million.