By Michael Rubin, President and CEO
As Florida’s seaports continue #NavigatingBeyondThePandemic, they have received a much-needed financial infusion of federal stimulus relief to help ensure our ports continue to deliver necessities to businesses and consumers.
In late July, Governor Ron DeSantis and DOT Secretary Kevin Thibault allocated $250 million in federal relief to shore-up Florida’s seaport industry. With cruise ships sidelined for more than 16 months, Florida has lost about 169,000 jobs and nearly $23 billion in economic activity through 2020.
As Canaveral Port Authority CEO Capt. John Murray, who also serves as Chairman of the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development (FSTED) Council explained, “This relief funding is incredibly important to Florida’s seaports and the many thousands of jobs that depend on our success.”
The announcement of critical seaport relief funding followed on the heels of the release of FSTED’s annual Seaport Mission Plan, which shows that Florida’s seaports experienced declines consistent with the overall trend for 2020. Waterborne trade, for example, decreased 16.1 percent compared to 2019, which is a drop off of $14.1 billion.
However, Florida’s seaports are resilient, and I believe we will see a near complete recovery in 2021. With $3.3 billion in capital improvements at Florida’s seaports identified over the next five years, we expect our ports to continue playing a leading role in job creation and economic growth.
Just as our ports are gearing up to navigate beyond the pandemic, so is the Florida Ports Council. Florida’s seaports have a long and rich history as a leading economic driver, and despite the economic challenges of 2020, Florida continues to be a top maritime trade state and continues to be the cruising capital of the world.
Seizing upon opportunities to ensure Florida’s ports are the global leaders of tomorrow, I recently accepted the role as President and CEO. I’m so pleased to be helping the organization that I have dedicated much of my career to enhance the competitiveness of Florida’s seaports.
To further bolster our efforts, we have recently hired Emily Fisher to serve as Vice President of Programs and Planning, including leading our FSTED program. And Christy Gandy, who many of you have worked with over the years, has been promoted to Vice President of Operations.
Next week, we’ll gather in Panama City Beach for the Florida Ports Council’s Annual Meeting and the Florida Seaports Transportation and Economic Development Council Fall Board Meeting taking place at the Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf and Spa Resort. We’ll have an opportunity to hear from many of Florida’s state leaders, get the latest on the state-of-Florida’s ports, tour Port Panama City, and honor those that have been outstanding leaders of this industry. I look forward to seeing you in Panama City.
As always, thank you for your leadership in helping ensure Florida’s global competitiveness.