TAMPA — The Port of Tampa’s new administration revealed its first annual budget proposal Tuesday and the message it would focus on projects to enhance area economic development, including competing with East Coast ports with an auto distribution center and an express refrigerated and dry food rail service to the Midwest.
Chief Executive Officer and Port Director Paul Anderson said revenue expectations from the two recently announced projects would not be included in the port’s budget that will be approved Sept. 18 until contracts have been secured.
The port and its three private sector partners on the auto distribution center — Jacksonville-based Amports, CSX Transportation and Ports America — are meeting with potential users including Honda and Toyota. The port and Amports are kicking in $400,000 each for short-term improvements to buildings and the site of the auto terminal to enhance recruiting.
The goal is to attract a portion of a rapid expansion of autos manufactured in Mexico, but Anderson pointed out contracts would take time to materialize.
Anderson, who began his tenure in Tampa in January after heading the Port of Jacksonville, said more new projects are expected to be announced in the next few months.
“We want to be recognized as a gateway,” Anderson said. “Our strategy is for growth through marketing efforts to support the diversity of cargo.
The proposed fiscal 2014 budget projects record operating revenue of $48.3 million, about 11 percent higher than fiscal 2013 projected revenue, with tonnage and cruise increases contributing to the gains.
The budget proposes $55.3 million in new capital projects for fiscal 2014, including the auto and food terminals on Hookers Point, and $34 million in projects carried over from fiscal 2013.
In other news from Tuesday’s port authority board meeting and budget workshop:
The port board approved contracts for two lobbying firms to simultaneously represent port interests in Tallahassee. The board voted to hire the two firms ranked first and second by an evaluation committee: The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners LLC, and Ballard Partners Inc., respectively. The board will pay $60,000 each for one year, with two, one-year renewal clauses.
The board’s rationale was that other ports “double-teamed” Tallahassee leaders for appropriations from the state. The principles of both consulting firms have close ties to Gov. Rick Scott and the state’s Republican leadership that dominates the legislature.
The port staff will work out a plan for free parking on a surface lot that serves Channelside businesses on nights when no special events are scheduled in the area to help increase patronage.
The port board heard preliminary reports that a defect in a rail was the probable cause of a derailment of CSX ethanol train at the port on July 25 that closed the port for 55 hours.