Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Program

The Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development (FSTED) Council is a public entity created by statute and charged with carrying out the state’s economic development mission through implementation of seaport capital improvement projects at the local level.  The Council was created within the Department of Transportation and consists of the port directors of the 16 publicly owned seaports and a representative from the Department of Transportation and the Department of Economic Opportunity.

In 1990, the State Legislature created the FSTED Program under Chapter 311, Florida Statutes (F.S.), to finance port transportation projects on a 50-50 matching basis. The program was established in recognition of the importance of Florida’s international trade to the state’s economic progress and job creation and because the Legislature recognized the urgency of building the transportation capacity needed to satisfy the consumer demands of Florida’s growing population.

Chapter 311 creates a partnership between the state and its seaports. It is driven by an approach to project development that reflects the special characteristics of seaports: they are public entities, but must function as businesses to fulfill their public purpose. Like any business, they must demonstrate a service orientation and prompt response to customer demand, flexibility to meet changing market trends, and accountability to ensure sound investments.  This approach is key to the success of Chapter 311 and the seaport bond financing programs, also  authorized by Statute, in accelerating the pace at which our seaports have been able to build the facilities needed to compete with out of state ports and to sustain and enlarge the state’s share of international commerce.

The FSTED Program requires consistency with local plans and matching funds from each seaport; thus seaport investments are driven by a local commitment to meet the community’s strategic objectives.  Eleven of the 16 seaport governing bodies comprise directly-elected officials. Port Tampa Bay’s Board includes elected officials as well as members appointed by the Governor; the Port of Jacksonville’s Board is appointed by the Governor and by the Mayor of Jacksonville; Port Panama City’s Board is appointed by the elected City Commission; and the Port of Port St. Joe’s Board is appointed entirely by the Governor.

Responsibility for project development through the FSTED Program is thus initiated at the local level, based on an understanding of market demand and local seaport opportunity and capacity. At the State level, project review is accomplished by state agency partners who are full voting members of the FSTED Council. The FSTED Program provides that program funds will be used to fund approved projects on a 50-50 matching basis with any of the public ports which are governed by a public body. An approved project is a project that has been approved by the FSTED Council.  Grant funding under the program is limited to specific types of port facilities or port transportation projects.

The FSTED Council has several committees which discuss and facilitate issues related to the environment, growth management, and seaport security.