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Inland port coming to Gainesville. How big will its impact be in the region?
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Gov. Nathan Deal announced the coming inland port to be built at Gateway Industrial Centre off Ga. 365 in Hall County during a press conference at the Lanier Flight Center Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, at Gainesville's Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport. - photo by Scott Rogers

A regional terminal for cargo heading from the Port of Savannah to area companies could open in 2021 at the Gateway Industrial Centre off Ga. 365 in North Hall.

State officials, including Gov. Nathan Deal, touted and gave more details about the project, which was announced earlier this year, at a gathering with area business and government leaders Monday, Dec. 3, at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville.

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Visitors to Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville attend a press conference Monday Dec. 3, 2018, where Gov. Nathan Deal announced a new inland port will be built at Gateway Industrial Centre off Ga. 365 in Hall County. - photo by Scott Rogers

“Let me assure you that what we’re doing today is a big deal for Gainesville, Hall County, for the entire region that we serve here,” said Philip Wilheit, chairman of the Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority, speaking at Lanier Flight Center at the airport. “It’s almost overwhelming to me what this port is going to mean to us.”

Construction is expected to start in August 2019 on the Northeast Georgia Inland Port on 104 acres off Gateway Centre Parkway, along a thin strip of land next to Norfolk Southern railroad lines.

The port will serve the Interstate 85 region of Georgia, “an important (area) for the production of heavy equipment, food and forest products," Deal said.

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Gov. Nathan Deal speaks at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport Monday Dec. 3, 2018, to announce the coming inland port to be built at Gateway Industrial Centre off Ga. 365 in Hall County. - photo by Scott Rogers

Handling both import and export containers at the Gainesville terminal, Norfolk Southern will provide service on a direct rail route to and from the Port of Savannah's Garden City Terminal.

At full build-out, it will have the capacity to handle up to 150,000 containers per year.

“Savannah is a rapidly growing gateway for global commerce, and Hall County and the surrounding region in Northeast Georgia are key areas of expansion in the state,” said Norfolk Southern's Jeff Heller, intermodal and automotive vice president. Georgia Ports Authority's inland port at Gainesville, combined with Norfolk Southern's rail service, “will provide crucial links in the supply chains of local industries, consumers, and the rest of the world, and serve as a catalyst for new opportunities for industrial development.”

Even though the port itself could eventually employ up to 20 people, it “will also act as an economic development tool, drawing new investment from business and industry to Hall and its surrounding counties,” Deal said.

The inland port already is drawing economic interest.

Officials also announced Monday that Auto Metal Direct, a worldwide distributor of auto body panels and trim for classic cars and trucks, plans to build a 318,000 square-foot distribution and fulfillment center at Gateway, across the street from the port.

Construction will begin soon on the $15 million project, expected to create 40 jobs.

"Hundreds of containers each year are received by AMD, so the services provided by the Georgia Ports Authority are essential for the maintenance and growth of our business,” said the company’s president, Mark Headrick, in a press release.

“The proximity of the new inland port will be a real plus in many areas, and was an influencing factor in the eventual location of our building. Quicker service, lower cost and ease of movement should all be realized in our new location.”

The Appalachian Regional Port, serving the Interstate 75 region of Georgia, opened Aug. 22 on 42 acres in Murray County.