‘Rebirth’ of Port of Monroe related at Chamber event


In this photo from July, Paul C. LaMarre III, director of the Port of Monroe, stands on the Wisconsin, a tugboat that was built in 1987. Owned by the Great Lakes Towing Company, it has been moved to the Port of Monroe. (Monroe News photo by TOM HAWLEY)

“The golden years of this industry is where we want to be again,” Paul C. LaMarre III, director of the Port of Monroe, told the audience.

Paul C. LaMarre III, director of the Port of Monroe, promotes the recent burst of activity at the Port of Monroe as a “rebirth” — and he was happy to explain how and why that description fits during a Monroe County Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday.

“The golden years of this industry is where we want to be again,” he told the audience.

His program “Port of Monroe: The Story Behind the Story — A Conversation about the Rebirth of Mon-roe’s Seaport,” originally was slated for Feb. 12, but the chamber breakfast was canceled that day because of the weather. It was rescheduled for this week at Quality Inn & Suites. The breakfast meetings are promoted as networking opportunities and usually draw a good-sized crowd as this one did.

LaMarre presented his program in a conversation style, with photos shown on a screen to illustrate the port and its operations. The questions were led by Matt Budds, chairperson of the chamber, who emceed the program.

The Port of Monroe is one of the oldest ports on the Great Lakes. It was established in 1932, and constructed during the 1930s and 1940s, according to a written report that LaMarre provided at the meeting. During the following decades, it was a transportation hub for the automotive, steel and power industries.

These days, port officials point to direct access to rail and nearby access to I- 75 as among the major draws for directing cargo from land to lake or in reverse. During 2017, the port and its maritime commerce supported $96 million in economic activity. This included support of 1,659 jobs.

The largest ship on the Great Lakes calls upon Monroe, LaMarre said. Shipments in recent seasons have included coal, limestone, asphalt, wind blades and wind power sections. There also are terminal services and a shipyard on site. The tugboat Wisconsin, now stationed at the port, is the oldest commercially operating tugboat in the world.

LaMarre said much of the credit for success goes to a core group of people who work at the port, including assistant director Mark Rohn. “I believe I have the best team on the Great Lakes for sure,” he said.

While operations include consultants, LaMarre explained that happens on an as-needed basis and with a deliberate plan: “That’s kind of been our motto: keep it mean, and lean and nimble.”

LaMarre explained that DTE Energy is the port’s biggest customer as the coal needed to run the Monroe Power Plant arrives by both marine and rail.

“That power plant is a cargo machine,” he added.

But the vessel calls also include steel, limestone and grain. It’s homegrown American commerce,” he said.

LaMarre encouraged those in the audience to take a look at a video clip posted this week at Facebook.com/portofmonroe to see the tugboat chopping through the ice to keep the shipping channels open.

When asked by Budd about the biggest frustrations, LaMarre mentioned some of his recent hurdles with U.S. Customs. He estimated the port lost about 50 vessel stops during 2018 that he was working on — only to have last-minute problems thrown in. In one situation, a vessel was two days out from a scheduled dock in Monroe when the shipping had to be rerouted into Ohio.

“We need every vessel call we can get,” he said.

Despite the challenges, he loves the industry and the impact it can have on Monroe County.

That’s one of the reasons LaMarre continues to serve on numerous committees and boards in support of Great Lakes history and maritime operations.

“We’re out there trying to advocate for all the ports,” he said about the regional and national efforts. “We succeed or fail as a system.”


SOURCE: Monroe News