In our latest video segment we talk transportation and infrastructure and speak with Jacksonville Transportation Authority Chief Executive Officer Nat Ford.
3 Questions With: Jacksonville Port Authority Interim Chief Executive Officer Eric Green
The Fiorentino Group: From a local economy perspective, why is deepening of the St. Johns needed? And what’s the next step in the deepening process?
Eric Green: The Jacksonville Harbor Deepening project is the single biggest opportunity to grow our port, support area businesses, increase manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, transportation and more, ensuring quality employment for future generations. A deeper harbor will make JAXPORT more competitive in the global economy, bringing jobs and increased opportunity to Jacksonville and Northeast Florida.
It will allow us to move much more cargo on and off of the largest international container ships already calling JAXPORT. We want every bit of cargo that should be moving through Jacksonville to come here—rather than some out-of-state port—as each piece of cargo represents jobs and dollars for this region.
Construction is set to begin by early 2018. Along with substantial state support already in place, the $484 million, 11-mile project recently received $21.5 million in federal funds. Plus, the deepening has been designated as a new start project making it eligible for up to half of the total cost in federal dollars.
TFG: JAXPORT recently sponsored a student marine program and JAXPORT.com has been upgraded to better connect job seekers here in Northeast Florida with maritime positions. In your own words, why is community involvement so important to JAXPORT?
EG: We understand the role we play in the region’s economic vitality. As a corporate citizen, we work to take that even further by offering support to community programs and events in specific areas such as economic development, environmental awareness, small business and employment in port, logistics and transportation careers.
A skilled workforce is one of our strengths in attracting top companies to do business through Jacksonville. By investing in future, dynamic transportation and logistics leaders, we are ensuring the region’s continued economic vitality and competitiveness. One way we do this is by taking a special interest in the next generation, mentoring through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and awarding a transportation and logistics college scholarship each year.
TFG: It’s been just over a year since the expansion of the Panama Canal – how has that impacted JAXPORT and Northeast Florida?
EG: The Asian container trade continues to be the fastest growing segment of JAXPORT’s container cargo business. We grow by double digits every year. That’s why the deepening project is so important. Larger ships are already calling JAXPORT through the new Panama locks, but the Suez Canal has also contributed to this steady growth.
It’s important to note that the world’s largest 14 ocean carriers carrying cargo between the U.S. East Coast and Asia currently call on JAXPORT. Combined, these ocean carriers handle 77 percent of all global container trade, and nearly every bit of containerized cargo coming to the East Coast. These ships use both the Panama and Suez canals and both these waterways will be very important as we continue to increase our Asian trade.
We are seeing more and more transportation, logistics, freight forwarding and retail distribution businesses opening and expanding in the Jacksonville area to take advantage of the opportunities this growing Asian trade represents. These companies hire employees, pay taxes and add to the overall attractiveness and vibrancy of our community.
2018 Session Prep Work Set To Begin This Fall
The 2018 legislative session is set to kick off in January – two months earlier than the usual time – which is a practice lawmakers are now implementing in election years. Senate President Joe Negron (R-Palm City) recently released the Senate’s 2017 interim legislative committee meeting schedule, with meetings set to begin the week of September 12th. The schedule for the House has not yet been released, but will likely be identical or very similar to the Senate.
While the recent legislative session and following special session provided some of the most interesting political debate in recent state history, the 2018 session is likely to be even more eventful and, possibly, more tumultuous. There will likely be a large number of important issues up for discussion next year, including further implementation and clarification of state medical marijuana policies, a potential rewrite of the state’s workers’ compensation statute, funding for Florida’s public colleges and universities, and gaming, among other key matters. In addition, with significant current activity regarding health care laws at the federal level, health care funding in Florida will likely be up for debate again in the coming year and typically leads to contention between the two chambers.
Next year will also prove to be an interesting year in Florida government where politics are concerned, with numerous key state and federal races open or up for reelection next November.
ICYMI: TFG’s New Website
If you missed the launch of our new website earlier this year, make sure to head to thefiorentinogroup.com to check out our new and improved site!
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