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By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN â€“ One of the biggest points of pride for the Quonset Development Corporation [QDC] has been the Port of Davisvilleâ€™s ranking as the eighth largest auto importer in North America.
And it was with great enthusiasm this week that Governor Lincoln Chafee announced the Port is moving its way even further up the list.
Chafee, along with state and local officials, unveiled the latest rankings Tuesday morning, which place Davisville one spot higher for seventh in the country, against the backdrop of a ship that was off-loading vehicles from overseas.
Davisville comes in just behind major ports in Georgia, New Jersey, Washington and California.
During 2011, 150,519 automobiles, such as Audi, Ford, Bentley, Volkswagen, Subaru and Porsche, were imported through the port, giving Davisville its second consecutive year of double-digit percentage growth. That number is four times the volume seen at the port just 15 years ago. Another 41,797 came to Davisville by rail.
â€śThe Port of Davisville, as well as the entire Quonset Business Park, is one of Rhode Islandâ€™s key assets,â€ť Chafee said. â€śI also ask for your support for my $7.5 million dredging legislation that will allow
for a deeper and wider channel for ships to pass through.â€ť
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The engineering and environmental work thatâ€™s required for Chafeeâ€™s dredging project is mostly complete and is just awaiting approval by the General Assembly. Once approved, construction could begin as soon as this October and be completed in less than a year.
Chafee also referenced the expansion of the Panama Canal that will be completed in 2014, saying that project will open up opportunities for more traffic for the Port of Davisville from other parts around the world.
North Atlantic Distribution, Inc. (NORAD), a family owned and operated business, is responsible for processing, finishing and distribution of the vehicles across the country and is one of the largest auto importers in North America.
â€śWe started this business in 1985 and during our first year processed around 35,000 vehicles,â€ť said NORAD President Michael Miranda. â€śItâ€™s amazing to see how far weâ€™ve come. But we couldnâ€™t have flourished without the support from QDC and other staff.â€ť
In addition to the six brands of vehicles, NORAD is in talks with three other auto manufacturers in hopes of expanding the import aspect.
After the morning ceremony, Chafee and other officials toured NORADâ€™s facility, where Miranda and his son, Justin, the Vice President of Operations, showed the processing of the vehicles from start to finish.
â€śWe get these vehicles 90 percent road ready here, so when they arrive to the dealerships, minimal work needs to be done,â€ť Justin Miranda said.
After exiting the ship, vehicles are driven to the first location where windshield wiper fluid and oil is put in, floor mats are installed, vehicle decals are put on and more. In just half an hour, between 15 and 20 cars are processed. They then go to the accessories building, where more detailed parts are installed, including trunk liners, spoilers, mirrors and solar panels. On a normal day, 400 to 500 vehicles will move through that area.
Another part of the facility is dedicated to larger installations, ones that take more than one hour to do, like tires and side-steps for SUVâ€™s. One of the last stops for the vehicles, if need be, is the repair shop. The transportation process from overseas can take a small toll on the vehicles, including dings in the paint or minor dents.
In addition to the new rank, the governor, along with Quonset Business Park Managing Director Steven King, revealed a new logo that they say brings together the connection between the port and business park.
â€śDue to the parkâ€™s military heritage, the public has a tendency to see the port and the park as two different entities, Quonset and Davisville,â€ť King said. â€śWe wanted to find a way to show people that our success and future is linked together not only geographically, but also from a business sense.â€ť
Quonset is home to more than 165 companies and employs over 8,800 people.
â€śWeâ€™ve invested tens of millions of dollars into our company,â€ť said Miranda. â€śWe wouldnâ€™t have done so if this wasnâ€™t one of the finest ports in the country.â€ť