The Port of Corpus Christi celebrated the completion of the La Quinta Channel Extension dredging project Friday at the La Quinta Gateway site on Highway 181 in Portland.

The day was 20 years in the making.

Leaders from all around the Coastal Bend and beyond were on-hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony. The Port of Corpus Christi said the 1.4-mile extension of the La Quinta ship channel is like building a new highway for a community.

Other leaders at the celebration said the project will make the Coastal Bend a jewel and a diamond in the eyes of the world, and will attract lots of investment, adding that the project's completion marks the beginning of all that opportunity.

"What's great is that every building block has made a difference," former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said. "The dredging, which is what we're celebrating today, means that we are going to be able to be the first big stop off for Central and South America, and after the Panama Canal is opened up, we're going to be able to compete very effectively with the West Coast."

Hutchison said the project is the biggest transformation of any area in the entire state of Texas.