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Irma could take toll on Hall businesses needing to move goods
Logistics is a big industry locally, but number of businesses importing and exporting also high
09092017 IRMAlogistics
A note is posted on a gas pump after the station ran out of gas ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla. (Friday, Sept. 8, 2017.) - photo by AP photo

Shipping and receiving at Hall County companies, as well as businesses that move goods back and forth, could have their work cut out for them the next few days, with Hurricane Irma taking aim at the Southeast.

Complicating issues could be the Port of Savannah closing Saturday through Tuesday.

“It is a short-term rearrangement of logistics and having to think about seeking another port for exports and, if there are inbound shipments, hopefully those can be rerouted,” said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

“And those shipping lines are doing what they need to do to make adjustments out at sea and avoid this kind of storm.”

Storm tracking on Friday showed the storm barreling up Florida and Georgia with Savannah and the coast on the edges of the swath. Northeast Georgia, including Hall, is poised to get high winds and heavy rain.

Logistics is a big industry in Hall, but manufacturing and processing also are huge.

“We had a recent survey that we did with our 300 existing industries, and 96 of them responded that they export on a regular basis,” Evans said. “And we know that there are many, many more of our existing industries that are also importing parts and components, and maybe even finished products.”

Phil Sutton, chief administrative officer at Kubota Manufacturing of America Corp. off Ga. 365 in northeast Hall, said, as of Friday, “there’s no indication there’s going to be an issue” with shipments.

But then, that depends on impacts at the ports in Savannah and Brunswick.

“We’re watching (the storm’s path) very carefully,” Sutton said. “By Tuesday, (reports show) we’ll be back to normal, so that’s what we’re hoping for.

“We’re watching the ship traffic. Ships will go out to sea and wait for (the storm) to pass by before they come in. Of course, if there is any damage to the ports or delays, then that’s a whole different ballgame.”

Jim Walters, a Gainesville businessman and member of the Georgia Ports Authority’s board, said Friday’s track of the storm suggests the coast “might be better off than we are.”

He didn’t believe Irma’s impacts “should put us behind the eight ball for too long a period of time. I think we’ll be up and running by Wednesday, if not before.”

Plus, he feels good about the infrastructure around the ports, including two railway lines.

“The biggest issue we’ll have, I think, will be around Brunswick, with flooding,” Walters said.

Jim Syfan of Syfan Logistics described the storm as a challenge as truckers are slammed taking goods to areas where consumers are snapping provisions off the shelves.

“I can’t tell you how much freight we’re hauling to Florida,” he said. “And we deal primarily in food (products). … The demand for (truck deliveries) is way up because the urgency is way up.”

Syfan added: “The federal government and the states have waived some of the restrictions in driver times so that we can expedite (shipments).”

But there are added costs, as well, particularly fuel.

“The cost of business has gone up,” Syfan said. “When fuel goes up, so does everything else that’s made from fuel — such as the oil that we change and the tires.”

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