The Port of Cincinnati has expanded its statistical boundary so that it now encompasses the Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky – making it the second busiest inland US port – thanks to a federal ruling issued on February 5, 2015. The port district now covers a 365-kilometre stretch of the Ohio River, including a 12-kilometre stretch of the Licking River, and a total of 15 counties. 

The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and Northern Kentucky Port Authority petitioned the federal government to expand the port boundary to support the Central Ohio River Business Association, a river commerce trade association whose members were advocating for a larger port region. “We did this as advocates for the 80 private terminal operators along both sides of the Ohio River in Ohio and Northern Kentucky,” Laura Brunner, president and CEO of the Port of Greater Cincinnati said. “It will help them market and draw attention to the vitality of this region.”

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The port authorities expect the Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky to handle more than 48 million freight tons per year, which would make it the 15th busiest port district and the second busiest inland river port in the US.

Johnna Reeder, president and CEO of Cincinnati’s regional economic development initiative, REDI Cincinnati, sees the expanded port district as a strong play for the region's economic development efforts. “This increase in status, will create higher visibility for the collective port community and improve our region's ability to compete in an increasingly global market,” she said. 

Farmland along both the Ohio and Northern Kentucky sides of the Ohio River are well placed to be developed as manufacturing sites. The region also boasts intermodal capabilities. Besides the Ohio River, Cincinnati is served by two class one railroads and three major interstates. 

“We have increasing amounts of shale coming down from northern Ohio, which intersects with manufacturing opportunities along the Ohio River where there is quite a bit of undeveloped real estate,” Ms Brunner said. “The re-designation will help communities along the river market themselves more aggressively.”

Key clusters in the region includes polymers, aviation and aerospace, and steel manufacturing, in addition to a variety of different products that feed into those industries.