TAMPA - The Port of Tampa boasts an economic value that has nearly doubled in seven years, but it has come with one catch: The port now is generating fewer jobs, according to a new study.
An economist who did the study said tremendous gains in business productivity are having dual impacts on the economy. Revenue at the companies that use the port are up, but they need fewer people to generate it. In fact, jobs tied to the port are down 17 percent since 2006.
The port on Monday unveiled a new economic impact study at a news conference at Vigo Importing Co. in Tampa. It was the first major look at the port's economic output since 2006.
The headline statistic was a 93 percent surge in overall economic activity at the port. Like many other economic-impact reports, the new study looks at the money generated directly at the port by shipping and other companies and the money generated across the state from the cargo flowing through the port.
All told, the port has a total economic output of $15.1 billion, up from about $7.8 billion in 2006, according to the economic consulting firm that did the study, Martin Associates of Lancaster, Pa. A big part of that increase is attributed to the port's dominant customer, the phosphate and fertilizer industry. The economic output of phosphate companies using the port has soared to about $10.5 billion from $5.8 billion in the past seven years.
Other industries had impressive gains, too, but are small by comparison to phosphate. The economic value of the port's cruise ship business, for example, has surged to $380 million from $101 million in 2006. The shipyard business has risen to $175 million from $106 million seven years ago.
Port of Tampa Chief Executive Officer Paul Anderson said the port is "still in its infancy" when it comes to landing more container cargo, such as electronics items.
"The port of Tampa is clearly poised for future growth," Anderson told the crowd Monday.
Despite the positive economic growth, the jobs numbers weren't as positive. Overall, an estimated 80,216 jobs are tied to the port today, where 96,451 were tied to the port in 2006. That includes people employed directly by companies using the port as well as jobs created through the port's ripple effect, such as supermarket jobs created through the wages generated at the port.
Today's companies, particularly phosphate companies, need far fewer people than they did in the past, leading to the so-called "jobless recovery," Martin said.