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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Mar. 23, 201112:00 PM EST

Emerging from an 'invisible industry'

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by Joe Wilhelm Jr.

Staff Writer

People can’t help but notice most industries involved in transportation and logistics.

Tractor-trailers are easily noticeable hauling products on highways across the country. Trains can be seen and heard moving along the tracks or they cause consternation as motorists wait at crossings. Airplanes are used regularly for both business and pleasure.

But what about boats?

Those involved in transportation and logistics attended the “JAXPORT 2011 Logistics and Intermodal Conference” Tuesday at the Sawgrass Marriott Convention Center to discuss how the shipping industry could emerge from being considered an “invisible industry.”

“Folks in Colorado need to realize the importance of ports,” said John Anderson, staff director for the Water Resources and Environmental Subcommittee of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“If you’re not from a coastal state, you fail to realize the importance of ports to your daily life and we need to educate people about that,” he said.

Anderson is not related to Jacksonville Port Authority CEO Paul Anderson, but they do share a common goal, which is to make people aware of the effect ports and shipping will have in helping to drive the nation’s economy.

“I am glad we are all gathered here today to discuss some very difficult issues in our industry and grapple with some tough questions,” said Paul Anderson.

“Those questions are how can we revive our seaports, how do we cut out some of the red tape going on in Washington (D.C.)? How do we find efficiencies in our federal partners and how do we promote them to move quicker to be more nimble?” asked Anderson.

“And most critically, who is going to pay for these improvements and who is going to invest in our country’s future for our infrastructure?” he asked.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, which was a sellout hosting 350 guests, Anderson accompanied Gov. Rick Scott, along with five other port executives from Florida, to Panama to meet with government officials and tour the Panama Canal.

The trip included meetings with the President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli, Vice President of Panama and Minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Varela, Panama Canal Authority Administrator Alberto Aleman, U.S. Ambassador Phyllis Powers and former Panamanian Ambassador to the United States, Jaime Aleman.

“We had an excellent opportunity to not only meet with the leaders from Panama, which is driving a lot of the change in our industry with their visionary expansion of the Panama Canal,” said Anderson.

“I had several takeaways from this trip. One of those is that this governor is clearly not a politician or wears the cloak of a politician. He is a businessman. He is focused on our state’s role in international trade,” he said.

“He’s focused on our ports and he is driven to make this state a dynamic player for the future in our country’s international trade and how it moves through our country,” he said.

During the trip to Panama, the group discussed the free trade agreements that are being considered by the U.S. with Panama, Colombia and Korea.

“They have been discussed since 2007 and we are losing a lot of business to European countries because we don’t have these agreements in place,” said Anderson.

Despite the obstacles, Anderson is optimistic about the future of Jacksonville’s port and the ports throughout Florida.

“One thing I have learned is, with a strategic vision and the will to invest, we have an unbelievable future here in Northeast Florida, in our state, in our country and particularly in JaxPort,” said Anderson.

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