Oswego County Weeklies – Scriber takes the helm to lead Port of Oswego

By DEBRA J. GROOM
DGROOM@WDT.NET

PUBLISHED: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2018 AT 5:15 AM

Some might say William Scriber has trained his entire life for the job of executive director at the Port of Oswego Authority.

He has run organizations with large budgets. He has kept on top of building and equipment maintenance at a number of sites. He has worked with customers to meet their needs. He has drummed up business to expand agencies and help them grow.

All of that — and more — is just what he has to do now that he is the permanent executive director at the port. Scriber, 61, of Parish, has been the acting executive director for a year, but as of the week of Dec. 10, it is his job to keep.

And he’s in it for the long haul.

“Some executive directors come in and then look at the next job at a bigger port,” he said. “This is my last job.”

For the last year, Scriber said he and his team have focused on the Port of Oswego Authority’s primary goal, which is bringing in business and being an economic development powerhouse in the region. And this will continue to be his focus in coming years.

So far, he has greatly increased the grain (Central New York soybeans) shipments in and out of the port by reaching a working agreement with Perdue Agribusiness, which has locations throughout the east and midwest, with the nearest in Lakeville, Livingston County.

“Perdue and the port got together and we talked to the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture),” Scriber said. From there, a number of things needed to be done at the port, including installing a USDA lab, putting in a certified scale system and getting a license for the grain business.

And since all of this was accomplished, grain shipments have increased from 12,000 metric tons to more than 51,000 metric tons.

And Scriber expects that to keep going up to about 100,000 metric tons of grain being shipped in 2020.

On an even larger note, Scriber has worked to increase aluminum shipments in and out of the port. He said aluminum was doing well back in he early 2000s, but took a downturn about 2006-07. But he worked with customers on rates, increased the use of rail and got more direct truck traffic in from Canada (Canada is the top aluminum producer in the world).

“Aluminum is 50 percent of our business,” Scriber said of the port. Much of that aluminum goes to Novelis, the aluminum rolling and recycling business in Scriba, while “we also ship aluminum all across the country,” he said. The year 2018 has turned out to be a record year for aluminum at the port, Scriber said.

He’s keeping an eye on 2019, which could be problematic due to tariffs.

The Port of Oswego is the first U.S. port of call and deepwater port on the Great Lakes coming from the St. Lawrence Seaway. It has grown in the past due to its ability to not only welcome ships — both domestic and international — but also take in items brought in by ships and then transport them to other parts of the United States through its rail and trucking system.

The importance of the port goes back to the 1700s when the young Congress during the presidency of John Adams deemed Oswego as the first port of entry into the United States. With the addition of the canal system in the 1800s and 1900s, the port continues to “drive expansion” of commerce in the area, Scriber said.

Scriber has all the experience needed for a successful port leader.

Not only is he from Oswego County and the first graduate of SUNY Oswego to run the port, but for five years, he was the operations manager for Air Express International and Voltainer Ocean Services in Syracuse. In that job he directed and coordinated regional activities of air, motor, railroad and ocean transportation worldwide, including site visits to ensure quality and timely transport.

He worked as an elections commissioner in Oswego County, handling a $850,000 budget, supervising staff, solving problems and dealing with local, state and federal officials.

For seven years, he was the number two guy at the port in the position of manager of port logistics and administrative services. In this job, he ran the day-to-day operations of the port, from planning, budgeting and implementing major construction project to writing bid proposals and applying for grants.

He also has military training, being a veteran of Operation Desert Shield/Storm. He also has professional training in transportation issues, including MacDonnell Group Certified Port Executive Program, Occupational Safety and Health Administration General Industry Safety and Health Certification, more than 50 hours of security and antiterrorism courses and is a graduate of the U.S. Army school of transportation management.

So the man knows transportation and what needs to be done to move product from A to B.

Number 1, he knows how to work with customers. He said he is constantly working with customers to keep them happy, give them a good price for port service and help them move their items. “I have customer relations and salesman experience — I’m not a showman. I’m a focused deliverer,” he said.

Number 2, he knows the importance of infrastructure. There has been a $4 million upgrade to the rail yard at the port, including implementation of a dock rail, which allows materials to be “dropped from the ship right onto rail to go anywhere in the US,” he said. This is done without the use of cranes, which lowers the cost for the customers.

Also, the Army Corps of Engineers will be doing another breakwall project in 2019 “because that’s the highest priority for the Army Corps to keep commercial ports operating,” Scriber said. And Scriber also is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on fixing the $6.5 million of damage to the port from the flooding and high water during the spring and summer of 2017.

Number 3, he knows how to work with politicians. Scriber, through previous jobs and membership on the Tug Hill Commission, Parish town planning board and serving as Parish supervisor, has learned who to talk to on state and federal levels to get things done.

“I understand the whole system — I’ve been on the other side,” he said.

For 2019, he looks forward to doing more upgrades to facilities, putting in docks at the marina, keeping the business the port has now and “drumming up new business.” He said the port also will begin working with a Canadian company called Castaloop, which will help market the port and bring in new projects for the port to work on.

And one of the biggest moves is applying for Marine Highway Project designation for the port, which will open it up for even more business by allowing more firms to ship on the water instead of only rail or truck.

“New products and opportunities are open to us,” Scriber said. “These aren’t dreams — these are plans.”

 

SOURCE: Oswego News