A southern Illinois lawmaker says he is encouraged about the future of a Port District in Cairo.
Senator Dale Fowler joined local officials Monday in Illinois' southernmost city to hear presentations from businesses out of New Orleans, Florida and Kentucky.
The Harrisburg republican says the interest in the project is growing rapidly.
"I believe we're up to about 18 letters of interest from different companies that are basically saying, 'you build it, we would definitely like to consider coming to this project and to southern Illinois, so real exciting."
Fowler says the companies in Cairo Monday included one that designs ports and another that designs energy efficient vessels that are lighter, travel faster and can haul more cargo.
Fowler says they're working on a website to help further market the potential of Cairo.
"Then what we would like to do is bring all these companies that have sent us these letters of consideration and interest and bring those all to the table at one time in Cairo. We'll sit down in one big room and lay this project out and see if we can get stronger commitment."
Fowler says another big step would be securing funding in the new state budget for the port's design and permit process.
He says the project is a no-brainer since approximately 80% of all inland barge traffic in the U.S. passes by Cairo every year.