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The fledgling Corn Belt Ports located in the heart of the grain belt are celebrating groundbreakings on more than $2 billion in lock and dam investments and seeking to drive growth in the nation's top corn- and soybean-producing states. On Thursday, Oct. 19, Robert Sinkler, executive coordinating director of Corn Belt Ports – that includes Quad Cities Lock & Dam 15 – shared details of the extensive early impact of a quartet of regional entities. He was among the speakers at this week’s Upper Mississippi River Conference at the Holiday Inn Rock Island. Mr. Sinkler later joined a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Moline’s Western Illinois University riverfront campus for the opening of the fourth, and newest, of the Upper Mississippi River Ports regional offices. The mission of those regional offices is to promote sustainable, multi-purpose use of the Upper Mississippi to protect the supply chain integrity and be a focal point for advancing creation of a regional, port-based economic development cluster. They also will help ensure the regions are making climate-informed adjustments to its manmade and natural water resource infrastructure. For the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA), the creation of these federally recognized ports where none had existed is essential for the continued expansion of the state’s soybean market, its Public Policy Manager David Kubik said. His organization represents 43,000 soybean partners in Illinois alone and he shared the new ports’ impact on that industry during the river conference’s “Corn Belt Ports Best Kept Secrets” session. The annual conference is hosted by Davenport-based River Action.