The port also has a significant economic impact on the Tulsa area. Portiss estimates the annual payroll at more than $140 million. Approximately $600 million worth of cargo moves through the port each year, and total economic impact is about $300 million annually.
"It's an unanticipated, unexpected component to our economic development effort," says Jim Fram, senior vice president of economic development for the Tulsa Metro Chamber, adding, "It gives us an asset a lot of our competitors don't have."
Its numerous advantages have drawn companies to lease facilities at the port's industrial park. (The port does not sell land to ensure that it will remain a central access point "for generations to come," Portiss says.) Among these is Heater Specialists, a maker of large equipment for the energy industry, which occupies 10 acres and has made the port its permanent home. It ships its products from Catoosa to global locations.
Banking on the region's grains heritage and the port's grain elevator, the Port of Catoosa sought grain companies for tenants. Kansas City, Missouri-based DeBruce Grain, one of the largest privately-owned grain companies, chose the port and ships dry bulk fertilizer and grain from Catoosa.
And when GM auto parts supplier Delphi declared bankruptcy, the port scouted Belgian materials technology company Umicore to take over the vacant facility, which is now more efficient than when the company moved in.
While the recession has affected business (employment levels dropped by 1,000 workers after the downturn), the port's business diversity continues to propel it. It also expects the Panama Canal expansion to boost traffic, as Gulf of Mexico ports become congested. According to Grenville, "Catoosa will have an ideal hub into places like Wichita, Oklahoma City, even areas west of Oklahoma that are poorly served in transport right now."