Eight billion dollars and 100,000 jobs... That's what the Port of Tampa contributes to Tampa Bay's economy each year. Last Friday, the Hillsborough River Interlocal Planning Board & Technical Advisory Committee and the Metropolitan Planning Organization & MPO Technical and Citizen Advisory Committees were invited to join our Planning Commissioners and staff for a boat tour of the Port. Before boarding, we enjoyed an insightful presentation on the Port's vision and strategic plans for growth by Richard Wainio, Port Director & CEO of the Tampa Port Authority (TPA). Loaded with their big picture perspective on the international maritime industry, we embarked on our tour.
At 5,000 acres, the Tampa's Port is the largest and most diverse seaport in Florida. Their range of facilities and the number of trading partners continues to expand. Almost every imaginable commodity from any corner of the world comes through Tampa. At nearly 40 Million tons of cargo each year, 44% of all waterborne trade in Florida comes through Tampa Bay. Also critical to the local economy is our position as the energy products gateway of West Central Florida and as a premier fertilizer port in the United States. With a large and diverse bulk business, shipyard and ship repair center, a top ten U.S. cruise homeport, and an expanding container/ distribution center gateway, there is much to be optimistic about.
Driving economic value and job opportunities for our region, Tampa is fortunate to be the home of this economic engine. In spite of the worst economic downturn since WWII hitting especially hard here in Florida and declines in international trade, the Port of Tampa is weathering the storm very well. What's the key to its success? Cost control, innovative thinking and ongoing planning for growth.
Yes, the Port is in the goods movement business, but it's also in the planning business. Port strategic planning, like comprehensive planning has a long term perspective. It, too, looks 20+ years out and uses planning as a roadmap to economic success. By adhering to its vision while assessing its market, strategic and capital investments, plans are continuously updated to leverage the greatest advantage to the Tampa Bay region.
In anticipation of increasing market factors like population growth; strong Latin America trade; increased trade with China via the Panama Canal expansion; free trade agreements; and the potential with Cuba as a legal maritime trade market and a proximity as a potential trans-shipment base, the Port of Tampa is preparing now with many infrastructure projects and innovative marketing strategies, including the:
- Houston | Mobile | Tampa Gulf Coast Advantage joint port marketing strategy offering low-cost, efficient access to 1/3 of the population in the U.S.
- Container Terminal Expansion to quadruple size to handle all of Central Florida's demand
- Tampa Gateway Rail project joint initiative of TPA and CSX that will make our Port the only in Florida with on-dock train loading capability and to remove tens of thousands of ethanol-carrying trucks from local roadways starting next summer
- I-4 Connector Project to better manage the 10,000 - 12,000 trucks that do business at the Port each day and coincide with the increased opportunities expected from the Panama Canal expansion
In 2010, more than 800,000 passengers caught a glimpse of Tampa from the Bay as they departed on their dream vacations.
Operating like any successful business, the Tampa Port Authority has a solid business plan that protects its long-term interests and capitalizes on its assets. It is responsive to shorter term market fluctuations without compromising its well-defined vision. This is a successful business model and an illustration of the economic benefits of smart planning for growth. With the Port of Tampa offering global perspective and a strong gateway to the world economy, Tampa, Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay region appear to be a very attractive place to grow a business and a beautiful place to call home.