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Politics

Brookings Cheers Florida’s ‘Smart’ Port Investments

January 28, 2013 - 6:00pm

Floridas effort to build its port-to-rail freight infrastructure in anticipation of increased global trade is receiving high marks from one of the oldest Washington, D.C., think tanks.

A report from the Brookings Institute, a nonpartisan outfit that has a reputation of leaning to the left, listed as smart the states freight game plan as directed last year through the creation of the Office of Freight Logistics and Passenger Operations.

Instead of dividing money based on geographic equity, the state can now select projects that will deliver the greatest economic return on investment, the Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovationstated, which identified 10 State and Metropolitan Innovations to Watch.

And by working with the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Enterprise Florida, and Workforce Florida, FLP can help use Florida's transportation assets to build strong industry clusters and work toward the state's goal of doubling Florida-origin exports by 2015.

Gov. Rick Scott, while applauding the Brookinga Institute for recognizing the value of Floridas investments, stated that the investments in Floridas ports is aimed at creating an environment for the private sector to grow.

We are positioning ourselves to capitalize on the increased trade from the expansion of the Panama Canal and getting ready for the increased trade it will bring to our state," the governor said. "Floridas 15 seaports currently support 550,000 jobs for Florida families and we will continue to make investments so we can create opportunities for Floridas families.

Scott jumped on board the port expansion train after reading a 2010 report by the Florida Chamber of Commerce that claimed the state has a once in a generation opportunity to add 143,000 jobs to the nearly 600,000 existing port-related jobs, boosting port business by $21.5 billion and tax revenue by $723 million a year.

Brookings noted Floridas focus on preparing itself for the anticipated growth in trade when the Panama Canal expansion is completed in two years.

Due to its location, Florida houses critical freight hubs and is the United States' gateway to Latin America. In the coming years, as Latin American and Caribbean economies grow and the Panama Canal expansion is completed, this gateway position will become even more valuable. Florida's 15 ports have begun preparing for this future, Brookings stated.

The Port of Miami, for example, which is responsible for 5 percent of all U.S. trade by value with Latin America, has made a range of investments. The port is pursuing more than $1 billion in improvements to increase freight capacity with a new tunnel and intermodal exchange upgrades, funded through public-private partnerships. In addition, the port is planning a deep dredge project (to accommodate the larger ships coming through the Panama Canal) at a cost of $180 million, which could be paid for primarily with port, county, and state funds.

Bill Johnson, chairman of the Florida Ports Council, credited state lawmakers for steering the state toward the port bulk-up.

With the governor and state Legislature's continued focus and investment in Florida's ports, we will be ready for the expansion of the Panama Canal and will ensure Florida will be a global hub for business."


Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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