With four of Florida ports among the nation’s top 25 container ports and three among the top cruise ports in the world, the economic vitality of Florida’s ports should be an important focus of our state leaders. These ports are hubs of commerce and tourism that generate high-paying, sustainable jobs for Floridians while cementing our role and brand as the gateway for the Americas.
A recent Florida Ports Council Economic Analysis showed the incredible economic impact that our many seaports provide - nearly 700,000 jobs created and roughly $2.4 billion in annual tax revenue. The future is bright. In fact, the maritime sector is among the fastest growing sectors of our economy.
Not only do Florida’s seaports improve the state’s economy, they also generate international trade traffic and compete with the world’s top ports for both commerce and tourism. As a result, all other sectors of Florida’s economy benefit from an influx of visitors for business and pleasure, particularly the tourism and infrastructure sectors.
Private and public funding for Florida’s seaports has been impressive but even with our international standing, there are tremendous opportunities for even greater economic growth and property. For example, Port Tampa Bay is currently in the midst of a five-year $350 million capital improvement program. State investment in recent years has helped improve the port’s primary petroleum terminal, as well as significant rail improvements and the acquisition of two post-Panamax container cranes.
These investments are legacy projects that will deliver generational benefits to both the Tampa Bay region and all of Florida. State, port and private support have combined to form powerful funding partnerships. Continued investment in Florida’s ports is necessary to take full advantage of their assets, connectivity and international renown.
Thankfully, lawmakers are supporting these economic hubs. In February, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Legislative Package, including language aimed at increasing the funding for Florida’s Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Program, passed the House and the Senate version is awaiting its floor vote. This would increase the statutory minimum for seaport funding from $15 million to $25 million per year, a guarantee that provides assurance of freight network stability for Florida businesses and companies looking to move to our state.
Florida TaxWatch research also shows the importance of Florida seaports and their funding. The FDOT Legislative Package would also create a new public financing corporation that would supplement state funding for large projects with private investment dollars.
Florida’s leaders understand that a diversified economy means a better future for all Florida residents. Please go to www.flaports.org for more information.
Paul Anderson is the President and CEO of Port Tampa Bay and Chairman of the Florida Ports Council.
Dominic M. Calabro is the President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.