Uniting River Businesses for Common Prosperity
The Mississippi Valley Trade and Transport Council is immersed by its desire to strengthen business, both up and down the river.
As the old credit card commercial stated, “Membership has its privileges.”
When it comes to the Mississippi Valley Trade and Transport Council (MVTTC), its 75 members are brought together to network with other maritime service professionals and ultimately united to promote commerce within the Mississippi Valley River System.
Comprised of companies such as barge lines, port authorities, trading companies, and cargo terminals along with dozens of other commercial genres, the MVTTC provides united leadership and a singular voice when it comes to matters influencing production and distribution of cargo – from grain to iron and seemingly everything in between.
“In the broad sense, we think we can help you be successful and help your business grow by giving you this network of people that you work with (and sometimes compete with),” says Billy Fitzpatrick of Cooper Consolidated and Chairman of the MVTTC Board. “It’s somewhat unique in that a lot of the member companies, they all compete against each other within their group – the barge lines, for example. Sometimes, they’re fierce competitors. But when it comes to the Council and the work that it does, we all realize what benefits the Mississippi River system will benefit all of us.
“Everybody puts their competitiveness aside and works for the common good.”
Founded in 1982 and then-named the Mississippi Valley Coal Exporters Council, the MVTTC was originally a trade group promoting the movement of coal through the inland waterway system and lower Mississippi River. Because of the volatility of the coal industry – a market filled with rapid boom and bust periods – the council diversified to include ALL commodities transported throughout the Mississippi River.
Fitzpatrick views the wide range of businesses represented in the MVTTC as a strength rather than a liability, in that the issues the Council tackles must concern the entire roster of its members and therefore bring about the most change. For instance, the MVTTC is a strong proponent of deepening the Mississippi River from 45 to 50 feet to allow more commerce. It’s also addressing the need to modernize outdated infrastructure along the river, specifically the locks and dam system found in parts of the upper Mississippi and the Ohio River, which causes problems for both importers and exporters.
On a more micro level, the MVTTC forms alliances with local universities (such as the University of New Orleans) to address workforce development issues.
“It’s not hard to keep everybody together,” Fitzpatrick says. “There are issues important enough that they’re on the top of the list for everybody and [those issues] unite us.”
Speaking of uniting, the MVTTC hosts the annual World Trade and Transport Conference in New Orleans the week before Mardi Gras – usually the heart of Carnival season. Held at the Omni Royal Orleans in the historic French Quarter, the conference is jam-packed with events and festivities. Besides the customary meals and mixers, the conference puts on a golf tournament at Audubon Park. The conference also presents MVTTC scholarship winners, updates members on the latest government developments as well as an economic outlook for the trade industry and puts on a Mardi Gras Fete dinner at the Red Fish Grill on Bourbon Street.
“There are a lot of great events, but it’s really all about networking,” says Lisa McGoey, Executive Director for the MVTTC and described “quarterback” player in organizing the conference. “Clients come in from all over and have a chance to discuss business and listen to a group of speakers in tune with everything going on currently that affects business.”
By William Kalec