by Mike Sharkey
The Jacksonville Port Authority is moving a lot of cars and trucks these days. As in a record number. As in 600,000 this fiscal year, a figure that makes the JPA the No. 1 port in the country for processing and moving passenger vehicles, ahead of, believe it or not, New York.
On Sept. 27, JPA plans to unload, process and move its 600,000th car of the year, breaking its own record of just over 579,000 the port set last year. To commemorate the milestone, the port is hosting a bash to which many of its employees, customers and board members will be invited. JPA spokesperson Robert Peek said the record number is directly attributable to the port, its facilities and the four automobile processors that have established bases in Jacksonville. He also said the record, to an extent, isn’t really a surprise considering the port’s performance the past several years.
“Our numbers have steadily grown the last 15 years,” said Peek. “Over the last five years we’ve built some of the finest vehicle handling facilities in the country. That’s not an idle boast. Our customers tell us that and the auto manufacturers tell us that. We have new docks and new roadways. We have tailored our facilities to attract more vehicles and handle more vehicles.”
Southeast Toyota, American Port Services and Distribution & Auto Service are all tenants of JPA and Mercedes Benz brings cars through the port but processes them at a Southside location. Between those four, the port is moving and processing more cars than any other port in the nation. Facilities aside, Peek also believes the economy played a role in setting the bar so high. At a time when economists were bemoaning the past year’s recession, Peek says Americans were out buying cars and houses.
“Cars sales in the United States were extremely strong last year. Dealers were offering zero percent and cash back financing. Last year, U.S. auto sales were the highest ever,” explained Peek, adding he’s not convinced the recession was all that obvious. “I don’t think it’s been a textbook recession. Look at what’s happened to real estate. Mortgage rates are through the floor. A lot of people are buying real estate and cars as an investment. Maybe they aren’t buying other things, but I know U.S. car sales have been superb.”