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Great American Steamboat Project Moves Forward

August 9, 2011

The American Queen, the largest and most modern steamboat ever constructed in the United States, has found a home in Memphis.

“This is a perfect public/private partnership,” said Jeff Krida, CEO of the Great American Steamboat Company. “The American Queen’s home port will be Memphis … where it should have always been.”

Mayor A C Wharton Jr. addresses the sale of the American Queen while Jeff Krida, CEO of the Great American Steamboat Company, and Benny Lendermon and Dorchelle Spence of the Riverfront Development Corporation look on.

The United States Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) finalized the sale of the American Queen last week to Great American Steamboat Company parent HMS Global Maritime for $15.5 million, paving the way for the vessel’s return to the river.

“The final deal between the U.S. Maritime Administration and the Great American Steamboat Company will create almost 300 new jobs in Memphis,” said Congressman Steve Cohen.  “This deal almost didn’t happen.  I was more than happy to work with my friend Secretary LaHood to prevent this deal from falling through.  Bringing the American Queen to Memphis will create jobs, improve Memphis’ economy and add another component to our world-class transportation network.  Mayor AC Wharton and everyone else involved in Memphis did a great job making this happen.”

At the direction of Secretary Ray LaHood, MARAD significantly expedited the project and, during a visit to Memphis as part of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) program earlier this summer, U.S. Department of Transportation officials assured the city they would provide a seamless transaction to ensure the purchase of the vessel.

 Both Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and White House officials praised the partnerships involved in making the project a reality.

“I don’t believe we would have been able to consummate this deal without the hands-on assistance of our partners,” said Mayor Wharton. “Deputy Secretary John Porcari with the Department of Transportation met with me face to face while he was in Memphis and let me know that he was personally shepherding this process to a timely resolution.”

“I congratulate the City of Memphis and the Department of Transportation on the sale of the American Queen,” said Melody Barnes, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. “This will create hundreds of jobs in Memphis and in Tennessee, attract thousands of new tourists, and will improve economic development in downtown Memphis.” 

The  American Queen was originally launched in 1995 with a capacity of 436 passengers. The Great American Steamboat Company will offer overnight inland river cruises along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, the first of which should leave from Memphis’ Beale Street Landing April 2012.

The company’s headquarters also will be located in Downtown Memphis’ One Commerce Square.

“Memphis competed against cities who were offering large cash incentives,” said Benny Lendermon, President of the Riverfront Development Corporation. “But once the Great American Steamboat Company saw the plans for Beale Street Landing, they knew it had to be Memphis.  Even before completion, Beale Street Landing is already serving as a catalyst for economic development.  This civic amenity is an important step in our journey to creating a world-class riverfront and becoming a city of choice.” 

The project is expected to create 589 jobs and an economic impact of $89.5 million.  

 “This is the kind of project that builds on our strengths as a river city,” Mayor Wharton said, “and, at the same time, helps us bring badly needed jobs to Memphis.”

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