The Rick Scott Legacy: Modernizing Florida Ports

by | Dec 13, 2016

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Just weeks after becoming Florida’s Governor-elect, Rick Scott found himself besieged with meeting requests from foreign governments, including China, Germany and Japan, all wanting to lobby his new administration for some portion of Florida’s ~$70 billion budget.  The Japanese and Germans came bearing gifts and sleek brochures featuring high-speed bullet and mag-lev trains, the Chinese were primarily concerned about Florida’s ports being able to handle giant “post-Panamax” ships that would soon be able to slip through the Panama Canal laden with goods manufactured in Chinese factories.

In the end, Scott rejected the Obama Administration’s offer of $2 billion to begin construction of a dubious high-speed rail project, and those dollars instead were given to California. And, it’s no suprise that the cost estimates for that project are now $17 billion higher than the original (and still absurd) $45 million. Californians don’t seem to mind the boondoggle, though, they recently rejected a ballot measure that would have limited public funding for the overages, even though the project has been delayed another 4 years, from 2018 to 2022.

Meanwhile, here in Florida, where a massive portion of our limited state budget isn’t going to fund a similar boondoggle, Scott has focused much of his infrastructure attention on modernizing Florida’s ports.

For the past six years, Scott has fought tooth-and-nail to upgrade every seaport along our coast, from Jacksonville to Miami to Tampa and to Pensacola, to get them ready for the massive increase in volume predicted as a result of the Panama Canal upgrade.

Scott’s labor has started to bear fruit. In a release today, the Florida Ports Council says more than 200,000 new jobs across the state can be attributed to port expansion since 2012, and the state’s 15 seaports generate $117 billion in economic activity.

Here’s the full release. It’s impressive:

Gov. Scott and Florida Ports Council Announce 200,000 New Jobs at Florida Seaports

Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that Florida’s seaports have created 200,000 new jobs across the state since 2012 according to a new report from the Florida Ports Council. Florida’s 15 seaports are also responsible for $117.6 billion in economic activity, supporting nearly 900,000 jobs, $40 billion in personal income and $4.3 billion in state and local tax revenue. Governor Scott made the announcement at Port Tampa Bay, which this year commissioned two new post-Panamax gantry cranes to help the port accommodate some of the largest container vessels in the world.


Governor Scott said, “It’s great news that Florida seaports have added nearly 200,000 jobs for families across our state since 2012. Our 15 world-class seaports are not only a major economic engine for job creation in Florida, but they also help strengthen Florida’s position as the gateway to Latin America. We are competing in a global economy, but no other state can match the combination of Florida’s transportation infrastructure, business-friendly environment and location. This great news shows the importance of continuing to make investments in our seaports and our transportation system so Florida can continue to be a leader in job creation and become a global hub for trade.”


Since 2011, the State of Florida has invested more than $1 billion into Florida’s port system in order to increase capacity, compete with top ports across the nation, and expand Florida’s role as a global hub for trade. An additional $3.7 billion in state, local and private funding has been planned for port capital improvement projects over the next five years. According to the Florida Ports Council, port projects typically produce a return on investment of nearly $7 in state and local tax revenue for every $1 of investment. Florida’s seaports provide well-paying jobs in multiple sectors, including crane and terminal operators, truck drivers, distribution warehouse workers, and cargo loading, management and transportation.


Paul Anderson, Florida Ports Council chairman and Port Tampa Bay president and CEO, said, “Investments by Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature in the state’s seaports have ensured Florida remains a key player in the global marketplace. Now that Florida ports have the infrastructure to accommodate significantly larger vessels carrying more cargo and cruise passengers, there is a growing need for workers resulting in a recent increase of nearly 200,000 jobs.”


Doug Wheeler, Florida Ports Council president and CEO said, “The leadership and foresight of Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature to invest in Florida’s seaports has led to immediate and long-term job gains. The state of Florida’s seaports is strong, and our role in international trade as the Gateway to the Americas continues to grow stronger.”


Brian Taylor, JAXPORT CEO and Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Council Vice Chairman, said, “Florida’s seaports are economic powerhouses that welcome the largest vessels from all over the world, feature state-of-the-art cargo and cruise terminals, and allow manufacturing and distribution throughout the state to thrive. The upcoming deepening projects at JAXPORT and Port Everglades will increase our international competitiveness even further, enabling us to create and support more Florida jobs.”


Jim Boxold, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary, said, “Florida’s seaports represent a large and diverse array of infrastructure that supports jobs and economic development in shipping, manufacturing and tourism throughout our state. Our ports have made tremendous progress in recent years due to Governor Scott’s targeted investments. And as the Florida Ports Council report reveals, this is just the beginning.”


 Economic impacts of Florida ports from 2012 to 2016 according to the Florida Ports Council Report:

  • Jobs: 700,000 to nearly 900,000 (more than 25 percent increase)

  • Economic activity: $101.9 billion to $117.6 billion (more than 15 percent increase)

  • State and local tax revenue generated: $2.4 billion to $4.3 billion

  • Personal income: $30.3 billion to $40 billion (nearly 30 percent increase)

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