For the first time in GPA history, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) has captured the top communications award presented by the American Association of Port Authorities, a trade association representing the entire Western Hemisphere.

In mid-October, Robert Morris, GPA’s senior director of Corporate Communications, accepted the Dan Maynard Communications Award for Overall Excellence in Orlando, Fla.

This ‘travelling’ award is presented to the port that earns the most points in AAPA’s annual communications competition.

Morris said the campaigns produced by the department shared a cohesive message across multiple platforms, such as advertisements, community relations events and collateral materials. “Our public relations mission is to communicate GPA’s commercial advantages while highlighting our customer service, economic development and sustainable practices,” Morris said.“Key messages showcased our ports’ capacity to move autos and containerized cargo, extensive berth space, and Class I rail connections to the US Southeast.”

The communications effort also shared GPA’s environmentally responsible business practices, such as reducing diesel consumption with electrified ship-to-shore cranes and North America’s first electrified rubber-tyred gantry cranes — all while preserving water quality and natural history. “When port authorities communicate strategically with their many audiences, including their communities, business leaders and policymakers, they’re better able to show their tremendous value as economic development and jobs drivers,” said Kurt Nagle, AAPA’s president and CEO. “This competition helps our member ports by rewarding effective communications and highlighting best practices and lessons learned.”

GPA executive director Curtis Foltz said membership in the AAPA provides valuable feedback that helps to hone port operations, including communication outreach.

“This marks the first time the GPA has brought home the overall excellence award,” Foltz said. “It is welcome recognition of the work our Corporate Communications office has done to share our message with the public and policy makers, as well as current and potential customers.”

Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 352,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $18.5 billion in income, $66.9 billion in revenue and $2.5 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy.The Port of Savannah was the second busiest US container port for the export of American goods by tonnage in FY2011.