01/23/2012 11:37 am ET

Port Of Detroit Roundtable To Spotlight Transportation, Economic Growth

State economic experts who believe the Port of Detroit could play a key role in Southeast Michigan's economic future will hold a roundtable discussion on the subject Thursday in downtown Detroit.

The head of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation Mike Finney, Dean Glen LeRoy of Lawrence Technological University, and John Jamian, director of the Detroit Wayne County Port Authority will speak about ways the port could create an economic boost for the region, WWJ radio reports.

"Our vision really is to transform this region into a truly international intermodal global freight hub," Jamian told WWJ, "and we think that over the next decade, if we can put the focus on Detroit and this region as a freight hub, we can attract up to 200,000 new jobs."

At a presentation at the U-M Detroit Center last week, state Rep. Harvey Santana (D-Detroit) also argued that the city's economic future depends on infrastructure like the Port of Detroit.

"Our biggest asset is transportation. We need to be in the business of moving things faster, better and safer [than other places]," he said.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder also mentioned the need to revitalize the port in his recent State of the State address.

The Port of Detroit is Michigan's only true deep-water international port and operates one of the largest Foreign Trade Zones in the country.

Last summer, the port opened a new terminal and docking facility designed to harbor larger cruise ships.

Approximately 80 million tons of cargo move through the Detroit River annually, according to the Detroit-Wayne County Port Authority.

In a 2011 study of 907 firms doing business along the Great Lakes Seaway, economic consulting firm Martin Associates found cargo moving through the port supported 15,459 jobs in the state of Michigan.

The roundtable discussion on the future of the port will be held Thursday at 8 a.m. at the Wayne County Port Authority.