Scott Wants to Expand Florida's Ports

Florida Governor-elect Rick Scott says he wants to be known as the jobs governor. One of his main goals is to attract new businesses to the sunshine state, and his top advisors say one of the best ways to do that is to expand the state's ports.

If you're a major shipping company looking for a port of call, Florida looks pretty attractive, but don't dock just yet.

Unlike most other American ports, ours don't have access to rail lines or the kind of water depth to welcome the world's biggest cargo ships... at least not yet.

“We're going to make Florida the best place in the entire United States to do business.”

In his quest to revitalize our economy, Governor-elect Scott's transition team is out with a new report that recommends expanding capacity at each of Florida’s ports. It also calls for dredging our four biggest ports - Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville and Everglades to allow for those so-called 'super' container ships to dock.

“Our geographic location is the envy of the rest of the globe.”

Dale Brill with the Florida Chamber of Commerce helped craft the recommendations. He says if they're implemented we could see more than 143,000 new, high-wage jobs.

“We are the state that's closest to Africa and the Suez Canal in the United States, on the eastern seaboard, and with the post-Panamax ships coming from the widening of the Panama Canal, they're going to bypass Long Beach and California, they're going to go somewhere, and we want them to come to Florida,” Brill said.

Port expansion may be critical to expanding Florida’s economy, but it comes with a big price tag: around $1.8 billion.

When Scott takes over here at the capitol, he may find it difficult to come up with the money, especially with a budget deficit in upwards of three billion.

And some critics are privately complaining port expansion might come at the expense of building and maintaining roadways. Without them, it's tough to move all that cargo from the port to the store.

For his part, Scott has yet to make any promises.

“Everything state government does, it restricts our freedom, so what should we be doing?” he said.

The answer from his own team – an overhaul down at the docks.

Scott's transition report says it would cost more than $300 million to dredge Tampa’s port alone, and his advisors recommend paying for it by floating a public bond that would be repaid by Florida taxpayers.

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