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Savannah port expansion critical to Halls poultry industry
Georgia remains 11th-largest exporting state and seventh-largest importing state in country
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Georgia remains the 11th-largest exporting state and seventh-largest importing state in the country after experiencing a record increase in international trade in 2015.

And Hall County helped the state lead the nation in poultry exports.

“Exports are vital to Georgia’s poultry industry,” said Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation. “In a typical year, over 20 percent of Georgia’s broiler production is shipped overseas.”

In 2015, the state’s imports increased by 5.7 percent to $88.55 billion and companies in Georgia exported to 217 unique countries and territories.

Georgia also led the nation in the export of chemical wood pulp, craft paper and paperboard, carpets and chemical products like insecticides.

“We proudly offer access to the fastest-growing port in the nation, the world’s busiest airport and a collaborative business environment unmatched by other states,” Gov. Nathan Deal said in a statement. “These assets provide a gateway for Georgia companies to thrive in global markets, and Georgia’s international representation is well-aligned to support them. Today’s news further demonstrates that international trade remains an important economic driver for our state.”

Georgia’s top 10 export destinations accounted for 56 percent of total exports; the top five export countries accounted for 41 percent. Canada remains Georgia’s largest export partner, followed by Mexico, China, the United Kingdom and Germany.

“Georgia’s global connectivity is a critical factor in the state’s competitiveness and economic development,” Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr said in a statement. “We know that international trade means quality jobs and investment for our state, and our international trade team will continue to work with exporters, communities and private-sector partners to create new market opportunities for Georgia products and services.”

The state’s imports outpaced exports by approximately $50 billion. Georgia ranked first in the Southeast in dollar value of imports. The state’s top five import partners were China, Germany, South Korea, Mexico and Japan, accounting for 61 percent of total imports.

But more funding is needed for the Savannah Harbor expansion project to better position the state in the international trade market for years to come, according to U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga.

In comments made last week, the senators said $80 to $100 million in annual federal funding is needed until 2020 to complete the dredging project on time and without additional costs.

President Barack Obama’s budget proposes just $42.7 million for the project for the next fiscal year.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates the project will bring $174 million in annual net benefits to the United States by increasing the number and size of cargo ships that the port can accommodate.

The deepening project will cost more than $700 million, including construction and environmental mitigation costs.

The project is designed to help the port compete with the expansion of the Panama Canal.

Dredging began in September.

Giles said finishing the project is critical to Hall County’s poultry industry.

“Georgia’s port location near the major poultry-producing regions of the country and the excellent port infrastructure make the process of exporting efficient for poultry customers,” he said.