Stakeholders in the freight and logistics industries attended a regional listening session Thursday hosted by the Florida Department of Transportation’s new Office of Freight, Logistics and Passenger Operations (FLP) as it works to develop its freight mobility and trade plan.
The FLP was created in response to Florida House Bill 599, which requires the Florida Department of Transportation to develop the freight mobility and trade plan for the state. About 80 people attended the listening session held at the cruise terminal at Dames Point.
“FDOT’s main function has been construction and building roads. Freight has always been off to the side,” said Richard Biter, assistant secretary of intermodal systems development for FDOT.
“The governor realized the impact that freight has on the economy and job creation, and he also realized that the state couldn’t wait for the federal government to come in and assist with funding. He made a strategic investment in the ports to help the state’s economy,” said Biter.
As the FDOT moves forward with the development of the freight and mobility plan, it is holding public listening sessions to receive information from stakeholders. Thursday’s session was the third of six being held across the state, and will be followed by events in Panama City, Fort Myers and Tampa. The first two sessions were held in Miami and Orlando.
One of the questions asked of the audience at the session was, “How should the freight mobility and trade plan address opportunities and challenges as well as the needs of the business community in Florida?”
Mike Breen, JAXUSA’s senior director of its international department, wanted to see dollars follow recognition of the need for infrastructure improvements.
“You have to pay to play. We can talk about investment, but we need to actually fund these projects,” said Breen.
Another attendee expressed that the public does not favor a tax, but it may be necessary to produce the funds needed for infrastructure improvements.
“At UPS we are in favor of raising the fuel tax, it’s the most efficient way to get money into infrastructure,” said Frank Morris, UPS vice president of corporate public affairs.
Regional vice president and general manager of TraPac, Dennis Kelly, pointed to California and Virginia for examples of how to attract business to the state.
“Those ports have begun to offer incentives to use their ports,” said Kelly.
The goals for the plan include:
• Increasing the flow of domestic and international trade through the state's seaports and airports, including specific policies and investments that will recapture cargo currently shipped through seaports and airports located outside the state.
• Increasing the development of intermodal logistic centers in the state, including specific strategies, policies, and investments that capitalize on the state’s empty backhaul trucking and rail market.
• Increasing the development of manufacturing industries in the state, including specific policies and investments in transportation facilities that will promote the successful development and expansion of manufacturing facilities.
• Increasing the implementation of compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), and propane energy policies that reduce transportation costs for businesses and residents located in the state.
After the public listening sessions, the FLP will conduct CEO-level forums in September to gather information from state business leaders.
Anyone interested in following the progress of the plan can visit www.freightmovesflorida.com and can also provide comments on what they would like to see the plan include or address.