Florida – Land of ‘build it and they will come” port dreams

With boosterism reminiscent of the Florida real estate bubble of the 1920’s, ports all along the Florida coast are rushing to cash in on the expansion of the Panama Canal.  

They are spending huge amounts of tax money to dredge harbors and make other infrastructure investments, including at least $2 billion in Federal funds, in spite of warnings from experts that they may be digging for fool’s gold.

“Places like Florida don’t have the distribution activity that the big cargo ships need so I don’t really see them going there even if the harbors are deeper,” Ed Sands, global practice leader at the transportation procurement firm Procurian Source: Panama Canal expansion boom might sail past US ports

… Jean-Paul Rodrigue, a transportation scholar at Hofstra University, said it didn’t make sense for Charleston, Savannah and Miami all to have deeper harbors without more business.  “You need a lot of volume,” he said. “It’s not certain those ports can generate that level of volume.” Source: As states seek funds for deeper ports, will ships come in?

Port expansions are underway or planned in the Florida cities of Miami, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Port Canaveral, Port Manatee, Tampa.

Similarly, inland port plans abound – the Florida Inland Port in St. Lucie County, the Ocala Inland PortTitusville Inland Port, and others:

Here’s a report on one community’s unfulfilled dreams:

Source: Star News Online

‘Inland port’ planned in western Palm Beach County faces more delays


Creation of an “inland port” that could attract jobs to struggling western communities might still be three years away, Palm Beach County officials learned Thursday.

The proposed cargo-distribution hub, expected to grow into an industrial complex on sugar cane fields near Belle Glade, was supposed to open this year.
On Thursday, a representative of sugar giant Florida Crystals told the county commissioners that the company’s proposed inland port may not materialize until 2017.
Delays in widening the Panama Canal have also delayed the influx of big cargo ships expected to drive the need for facilities such as the inland port, according to Florida Crystals.
The cause of those far-away delays might not be resolved until 2017, said attorney Cliff Hertz, who represents Florida Crystals.
“It has always been tied to the canal opening,” Hertz said about the inland port. “There are a number of challenges.”
But County Commissioner Jess Santamaria, who represents the western communities, said that county development approvals agreed to four years ago were for a project that was supposed to have already started creating jobs by now.
After the rush to get the county’s OK in 2010 to put Florida Crystal’s inland port in place before others in competing counties, sugar cane still grows where industrial development was expected.
“I would like to see something coming up vertically in the very near future,” Santamaria said.
The inland port is supposed to grow from 850 acres between Belle Glade, South Bay and Lake Okeechobee; east of New River Canal Road and south of State Road 717.
Truck routes and rail lines would allow the inland port to tap into the increased stream of cargo expected to flow into South Florida’s shipping ports after the widening of the Panama Canal.
Initially, much of the cargo traffic for the inland port is expected to come by truck on U.S. 27, Hertz said. Plans also include adding a connection to rail lines 200 feet from the inland port, he said.
Eventually, inland port backers are hoping that more rail lines will be extended along U.S. 27 to haul even more cargo through the Glades region, potentially luring more businesses to the inland port.
Project backers once floated estimates as high as 20,000 new jobs that could spring from warehouses, trucking operations, manufacturing facilities and other inland port businesses.
County commissioners supported development approvals for the inland port as a way to deliver jobs to Belle Glade, South Bay and Pahokee, which have been plagued by high unemployment for decades.
Santamaria worries that too often backers of projects like the inland port promise new jobs to win county approval, but don’t have commitments from businesses to actually move in and provide the economic development boost.
“I am concerned that many of the [development proposals] are only interested in increasing the value of their real estate,” Santamaria said.
Despite the delays, the inland port can still bring much-needed jobs out west, County Mayor Priscilla Taylor said.
“This is certainly something that will benefit the Glades,” she said.
abreid@sunsentinel.com, 561-228-5504 or Twitter@abreidnews
(c)2014 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services