MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD)-A possible glimpse into the future of Muskegon Lake and its port is now public.
The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission released its vision plan and economic impact study Tuesday.
The study suggests a port that can handle container ships could impact the state economy by more than $280 million and generate over 1,700 direct and indirect jobs.
The report is just one step in making the commission’s vision a reality.
“This can not only reach all of West Michigan, but the entire state in moving agricultural goods and manufactured goods through the port,” said Erin Kuhn, executive director of the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission.
Future studies will look at additional improvements, like roads and other infrastructure, to make the expanded port a success.
Consumer’s Energy ordered the economic impact study. The utility company will close its B.C. Cobb plant, one of the port’s biggest customers, this year.
Now that Consumers has stopped shipping coal to the Cobb facility, some people are concerned the drop in tonnage carried on the lake could lower the weight threshold needed to ensure Muskegon Lake and the channel are dredged. That change could affect port expansion.
However, Verplank Dock’s Ron Matthews says he doubts that will happen.
“Our company shipped over 900 tons last year and while that number will go up and down, I think that combined with the tonnage LaFarge brings in with cement, we’ll be able to maintain that million ton mark,” he explained.
Still, Matthews welcomes what the changes being discussed.
“This community is in need of more jobs with the loss of the Cobb plant. We’re going to be needing more jobs, to replace the ones were looking with them,” he said.