CAIRO - Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a bill to create an Alexander-Cairo Port District.

The port district will spur job creation and promote economic development in Southern Illinois by creating new foreign trade opportunities in the state, officials announced Thursday afternoon during the signing ceremony of the bill along the Ohio River in Cairo.

"During these difficult economic times, we must continue to do everything possible to create jobs and strengthen our economy," Quinn said. "This new law gives us another tool for attracting and retaining key investments in the state, creating jobs and improving our economic competitiveness."

The new port district has the authority to oversee, operate, and maintain port-related facilities and export trade companies within its boundaries. The district is modeled after a similar district, the Massac-Metropolis Port District, which Quinn signed into law in 2009.

The Alexander-Cairo Port District will be managed by a seven-person board, of which the governor appoints four members, the chairperson of the Alexander County Board appoints two members and the mayor of Cairo appoints one member. Board members are not paid for service.

The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, and Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg and is effective immediately.

Creation of a port district and intermodal facility will help lift the overall economy of the county and surrounding area, officials said.

Given its location as a hub on the inland river system at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, railroad lines and Interstate 57, Cairo is well-positioned to take advantage of increased shipping activity that is expected as a result of the establishment of the new district, Quinn noted.

Illinois has 18 port districts statewide.

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