"What Pointe Coupee brings to the table is more riverfront access than anywhere else where the Port of Greater Baton Rouge currently has a footprint," said Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen. "If things are done the right way, the possibilities of what could be done could really be a game changer for Pointe Coupee in terms of economic development."

Legislation that authorized annexation two Westbank ports could have a far-reaching economic impact on surrounding parishes, including Iberville Parish, according to officials.

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed Senate Bill 180, authored by Republican state Sen. Rick Ward, which will put the Port of Pointe Coupee in control of the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, the nation's eighth largest port in terms of tonnage.

The Port of Pointe Coupee is comprised of a 112-acre site in Lettsworth, while the parish has 5,000 acres of undeveloped land and nine sites certified through Louisiana Economic Development.

"What Pointe Coupee brings to the table is more riverfront access than anywhere else where the Port of Greater Baton Rouge currently has a footprint," said Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen. "If things are done the right way, the possibilities of what could be done could really be a game changer for Pointe Coupee in terms of economic development."

The bill dissolves the Pointe Coupee Port Commission and puts all its assets in control of the Port of Greater Baton Rouge. It also widens the BR boundaries to take in Pointe Coupee Parish, which will gain two seats on the 15-member board for the Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission.

The move will allow for a faster export of agricultural commodities from all four directions.

The merger becomes official Jan. 1. Officials who have worked closely with the project will use the next six months to determine how they can make the most of the merger.

"I don't have a crystal ball or magic wand, but over time I like to think we can make some positive things happen," Jay Hardman, executive director for the Port of Greater Baton Rouge said. "We plan to spend the time between now and Jan. 1 readying ourselves by preparing marketing materials and getting the word out on what we'd like to do with our sites."

Marketing will make the biggest difference in the long run.

The addition of Pointe Coupee into the GBR footprint will open the gates to routes 180 miles shorter to the Gulf of Mexico by use of the Atchafalaya River rather than the Port of New Orleans.