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VOL. 126 | NO. 202 | Monday, October 17, 2011

 Distribution & 

Richardson Keeps Memphis Port Moving


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Almost a year ago, Randy Richardson was named the executive director of the International Port of Memphis.

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

Considering that Memphis is the second largest inland port on the shallow draft portion of the Mississippi River and the fourth largest inland port in the country, he’s a busy man with quite a few issues on his plate.

For the most part, capitalizing on Memphis’ location as a logistics hub is his top priority.

“Our location is No. 1,” said Richardson, who has been with the International Port of Memphis 21 years. “You can’t beat our location. We’re centered in the middle of the United States.”

Richardson became an administrative manager of the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission in 1990 and was promoted to deputy director three years later.

In June of last year he was named the interim executive director and moved into his current position last November when Donald McCrory retired.

Through all the changes in the business of moving materials through Memphis, Richardson realizes that Memphis’ location is the city’s biggest strength.

“We have five Class I railroads coming into Memphis,” Richards said. “Two from the east, two from the west and one going north and south. That’s very unusual. Very few cities have five Class I railroads. That, combined with two interstate systems coming through here, along with the water, makes Memphis a unique location as far as transportation capabilities.”

Through Richardson’s 21-year run in Memphis, he’s seen many changes.

Perhaps the biggest one, he said, has been the abundance of regulatory changes over the years that have been enacted primarily for environmental reasons.

Getting permits requires companies to jump through more hoops than ever before.

“There’s been an overall tightening of regulatory-type issues over the 21 years that I have seen that have all contributed to increase the cost of doing business,” Richardson said. “Things continue to get more difficult, making it harder for businesses to actually do business. … The cost has increased because of required testing and things of that nature.”

Nevertheless, materials continue to flow through the port.

The International Port of Memphis spans a 15-mile stretch of both sides of the Mississippi River and includes 68 water-fronted facilities. Petroleum, tar, asphalt, cement, coal, salt, rock and gravel are among the materials moved on a regular basis.

Dealing with issues like floods and erosion is also something that Richardson and his staff handles.

The port is still repairing damage caused by the flooding of the Mississippi and Wolf rivers last spring.

General cleanup of levees along McKellar Lake and dredging the Mississippi River are ongoing projects.

Serving as a sort of ambassador of the city by attracting more business also falls under the umbrella of the International Port of Memphis through its involvement in the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE).

EDGE is designed to bring together entities like the Office of Economic Development, the Industrial Development Board and the port.

“We’re working with the mayors on the EDGE project,” Richardson said. “We’re trying to bridge as many of the development entities under one roof … housed under a not-for-profit board that can work directly with industries and try to attract them to the Memphis area.”

Richardson was born in Biloxi, Miss., but was raised in Memphis. He graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in geography. He earned a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of Memphis in 1989.

He is a member and past chairman of the board of Inland Rivers Ports and Terminals and is the basin chairman for the Lower Mississippi River.

Richardson is a member of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, chairman of the Area Maritime Security Committee-Memphis and is on the board of directors of Memphis Plywood Co.

He’s also involved in the Society of American Military Engineers and the Presidents Island Industrial Association.

PROPERTY SALES 51 180 16,377
MORTGAGES 21 57 10,144
BUILDING PERMITS 103 665 39,209
BANKRUPTCIES 31 107 7,704