A piece of the pie is better than no pie at all.
The Jacksonville Port Authority was pleased to hear about the funding for seaports that is included in the proposed fiscal year 2012 state budget.
“There were a lot of difficult decisions made by the Legislature and governor during this legislative session. A lot of very good, worthwhile programs were challenged, and (the Legislature and governor) had to find ways to cut,” said Paul Anderson, CEO of the authority. “I wanted to say that because we as an industry had the best year in the history of the state of Florida. We worked very hard with our Legislative delegation and legislators throughout the state as well as with the Florida Ports Council to advocate for a greater investment in our ports throughout the state.”
As a state, Florida has traditionally not made port funding a priority, Anderson said, but current legislators want to change that in the next fiscal year.
Senate Bill 2000 includes about $175 million for seaports, including $55.8 million for the Port of Miami dredging project and $117.8 in seaport grants from the State Transportation Trust Fund.
Gov. Rick Scott promised $77 million for the Port of Miami project earlier this year, but that amount will be stretched over more than one year.
“(Legislators) are investing in Florida’s future in a sector of Florida’s economy that is critical to creating jobs,” said Anderson. “The $117 million is for all ports in Florida. I’d much rather take $114 million and split it up 14 ways.”
Anderson has been pursuing funding for the port since he was hired in January, and he will receive some help in developing relationships that will help the local port become one of the best on the Eastern seaboard.
The port authority’s awards committee recently approved a contract for federal government relations consulting services that totaled $210,000. The port chose two firms, Alcalde & Fay and Cassidy & Associates.
Based in Arlington, Va., Alcalde & Fay was founded in 1973 and offers lobbying, communications and grant-writing services. It is contracted for one year at $90,000, and the port has the option to renew the contract at the end of each year of the contract for the next two years.
Cassidy & Associates is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and began in 1975. Of the many services the firm lists, securing federal funding and appropriations would appear to be attractive to the port. The contract for Cassidy & Associates is also for one year, but the cost of the contract is $120,000 with two options to renew.
“A lot of what happens in Washington is about your advocates and their knowledge of your individual projects, and relationships,” said Anderson. “We are well positioned in both of those areas and we are continuing to improve that.”
One of those individual projects Anderson was alluding to is the Mile Point Project, which would provide ships a bigger window to call on Jacksonville’s ports.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville Office, has sent its draft feasibility study to its Atlanta office for review. Representatives from the port will meet with the Army Corps Wednesday for an update on the plan for Mile Point that was chosen from about five alternatives.
“It’s a major step in moving forward and we don’t expect any issues there,” said Chris Kauffmann, chief operating officer for the port. “The challenge is that it needs to be authorized, one way or the other, by Congress and we are working on that right now to develop some type of language that would allow for a contingent authorization in fiscal year 2012.”
If the authorization happens in 2012, the port is estimating that construction at Mile Point could be completed by 2013.
A new member of the port authority’s board of directors should be seated before Mile Point is completed. Mayor John Peyton has selected retired businessman John E. Anderson to replace Herschel Vinyard on the board.
Vinyard was appointed Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection by Scott and resigned from the board to take the position. Anderson is a retired president and CEO of Patriot Transportation Holding Inc.
“Serving as past president/CEO of one of the leading trucking companies in the area has armed Mr. Anderson with a breadth of experience in the areas of transportation and logistics. This, combined with his knowledge of the business community in Jacksonville and North Florida, is vital to fostering the port’s growth and supporting overall efforts to make our city a major Eastern seaboard logistics hub,” said Peyton.