Wednesday July 11, 2007

New Port Director Gives Fresh Perspective on Economic Development

Jonathan Daniels has background in port management, economic development
By Lou Sorendo

    Jonathan Daniels will bring youthful exuberance as well as a wealth of experience to the table in his new role as executive director of the Port of Oswego Authority.

    Daniels will take over the position occupied most recently by Thomas McAuslan, who passed away last fall after serving as director of the port for the past 12 years.

    Before relocating to Oswego, Daniels, 38, worked as the port director of East Port, Maine, and the managing director of Baton Rouge Port in Louisiana, a port with 85 miles of river jurisdiction.

    Since 2003, Daniels has served as the president and CEO of Eastern Maine Development Corp., a six-county economic development district responsible for the oversight of all economic, business, and community development functions.

    Prior to this role, he served as the director of business and economic development for the city of Bangor, Maine. He has seven years experience in ports, and an additional five years in economic development.

    Daniels said many aspects of port management is intrinsically tied with economic development in any given region. In addition, port activity also impacts tourism, recreational and environmental concerns, he added. “It’s all part of the mission,” he said. Daniels also served as co-chair of a state tourism task force in Maine.

    Daniels said each of the ports he has worked at has been a different experience, but the ultimate goals are the same. “To meet the needs of as many shippers and carriers as you can,” he said.

    The Port of Oswego has a myriad of resources and opportunities to take advantage of, Daniels explained. “We need to take a solid look at what’s available,” he said. Daniels pointed out that once they have established their strategic plan for the port, they could then determine a marketing plan.

    One of the most attractive things about the Port of Oswego is its versatility. “This port can handle anything that comes its way,” he said, “The sky’s the limit.”

    Time for review

    Daniels has spent his off hours touring the port and making notes as to what needs to be improved.

    During his assessment period, Daniels will take a hard look at how the port is utilizing its “laydown” areas. Presently, approximately 50 windmill blades were stacked and sitting idle on port property. The blades are bound for a windmill project in Cohocton, Steuben County.

    “Because of circumstances beyond our control, we’re not able to peel them off,” Daniels said. “It takes up space and limits you in taking in additional cargo.”

    “We need to take a look at what types of cargo best fit the available infrastructure in place,” he said.

    Daniels will seek ways to enhance throughput, or the amount of materials being processed, by not sitting on cargo for long periods of time.

    “We’re always going to take a look at efficiencies,” he said. “We want to ask ourselves if there is a way we can integrate things like new equipment which will allow us to enhance throughput.”

    Daniels said the wind turbine project meshes well with the state mandate to achieve a 25 percent renewable energy supply by the year 2025.

    Not only is it a positive for the port to handle wind turbine components, but it fortifies the facility’s reputation by doing it in a safe and secure manner, Daniels said.

    “Any type of damage will compromise the efficiency of the turbine itself,” he said. By building a reputation as a facility which can safely handle that type of cargo, it will make the port more attractive to others looking to utilize the facility in the future, he added. Wind turbine units are massive, with blades extending to 156 feet in length.

    Heightened status

    The mantra for the port when meeting with potential customers, he said, will be its status as a facility which can handle cargo of that magnitude.

    Daniels said within two weeks of his arrival, the port was already fielding inquiries relating to additional wind power projects throughout the region.

    “Someone called recently and asked if we handle that type of cargo and if they can stop by and see what our capabilities are. They walked on site and saw nearly 50 blades on the ground. You couldn’t ask for better advertising as far as what our capabilities are,” he said.

    “It’s been a great resume builder for this port,” he said.

    Daniels cautioned, however, that the port must look beyond that boost in activity because at some point, those types of projects will wane. “We have to see where else we can be effective,” he said.

    Meanwhile, port personnel are busy fielding inquiries concerning additional wind turbine projects. He said oftentimes, there is more than one shipper or consignee involved who may be bidding on the same project.

    It’s the port’s duty to provide the best information possible, Daniels said, in order to allow them the opportunity to be competitive.

    Daniels said the port is seeing new projects coming on board as the state and nation continue the push toward creating renewable energy sources.

    Image builder

    Daniels said ports are oftentimes seen as just that: an industrial part of the manufacturing corridor.

    “But how many people are sitting over at Patz enjoying a meal while looking at recreational craft right next door and a 540-foot commercial vessel tied up to the west pier?” he asked. “It’s an attraction that not many people have an opportunity to see.”

    The Harbor Trail project proposal encompasses port property, and Daniels believes this will give tourists an “up close and personal” view of the inner workings of an industrial harbor.

    The city features “incredible” public and private marina facilities which serve as tourist attractions as well, he noted.

    Looking down the road, Daniels said the port has an opportunity to work with the luxury yacht industry.

    Luxury yachts—also known as super-yachts or mega-yachts—are expensive, privately owned yachts that are professionally crewed. Daniels said yachts will hopefully choose Oswego to refuel or tire up at and will take advantage of downtown resources. “They will then tell their friends about our friendly harbor community,” he said.

    As tourists traverse the Great Lakes, they hopefully will be exposed to good, quality service upon visiting the Oswego port. He noted that tourists are a “fickle group” and all it takes is one bad experience to force them to go elsewhere.

    In his experience dealing with the niche cruising industry, Daniels said the Oswego port is “set up well” to draw in smaller cruise lines. “We’re not talking a Carnival or Cunard cruise line, but more like an American Cruise or American Canadian Caribbean line that features 50 to 100 passengers and won’t overwhelm the community,” he said.

    “These people spend money and time here, and if they have a good experience, they will come back in efforts to explore more of what the community has to offer,” he said.

    Experience abounds

    Daniels has a degree in international politics and military affairs from The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. and has completed graduate work toward a degree in maritime management from Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. He has also completed the International Program for Port Planning and Management from Louisiana State University.

    Daniels and his wife Debra have four children: Stephen, Lauren and twin girls, Paige and Alexis.

    Daniels went from his previous job to his new position in whirlwind fashion. 

    He was able to hit the ground running and focus on understanding the port’s operation while making local, regional, state and federal connections.

    A vital role Daniels will play is acting as a liaison between the port and various levels of government.

    He’s also getting up to speed on several projects the port is engaged in.

    Daniels is exploring ways in which the port can assist the development of the upcoming TransGas Development Systems project. TGDS plans on constructing one of the world’s largest coal gasification facilities in the town of Scriba. The $2 billion project will begin the permitting and site approval process later this summer and could be under construction early next year.

    When fully operational in late 2010, the TGDS plant will process up to an estimated 20,000 tons of coal per day. 

    TGDS is working with the port, which could receive large shipments of coal by freighter.

    The port will also be working with Northeast Biofuels, which is retrofitting the former Miller Brewing plant in the town of Volney to create ethanol from corn.

    “These types of generational projects bode well for the region,” said Daniels, adding that they will mesh well with the existing energy infrastructure in place in Oswego County.

    Serving the region

    The port’s warehouse features a significant amount of aluminum being stored for Novelis Corp. in Scriba. One half of the warehouse contains Novelis product while the other half consists of soybean.

    The ways and means of storing soybean may change, which will make space available in the warehouse to open up other commercial opportunities, Daniels noted.

    “You have to first grow from the inside,” he said.

    Daniels said it is easier dealing with existing customers as opposed to cultivating new ones.

    “While it’s great to see new business come in, you cannot do that if you can’t handle the existing customers who you’ve been moving cargo for,” he said.

    Daniels said he was amazed to speak with people from Bangor and hear the type of connections and linkages they’ve had with Oswego. Even more amazing is many of the experiences did not involve heavy snowfall, of which the Port City is famous for. Many people had traveled through Oswego and went out on Lake Ontario aboard a chartered vessel.
    In Maine, Daniels is more accustomed to snow totals in the 75-to-80-inch range. However, he said it gets extremely cold there.

    While in Louisiana, it was the intense heat that he had to deal with.

    “You’re always dealing with something that is not quite perfect. But that’s OK, you just have to deal with it on a daily basis,” he said.

    “In Oswego, you have to get used to handling the weather,” he said.

Oswego County Business Magazine
Issue 160

Issue 160
February/March 2019

Cover Story


James Weatherup

On The Job

What Are Your Goals for 2019?

Success Stories

Laser Transit Ltd.

My Turn

The Incompetent Boss and the Peter Principle

Economic Trends

Economic Advancement Plan Progress Report

Last Page

Chena Tucker