Florida’s Seaports Continue to Provide Economic Benefits

Cargo activity at Florida seaports last year continued to generate strong job growth and economic activity, according to a new study released today by the Florida Ports Council and the Florida Maritime Leadership Coalition.

Cargo of all kinds passing through Florida’s 14 deepwater ports was responsible for generating more than 550,000 direct and indirect jobs and $66 billion in total economic value, according to the findings of Martin Associates, an internationally renowned maritime economic analysis firm.

The study, which measures economic impacts in terms of jobs, personal earnings, business revenue, and state and local taxes, found that maritime cargo at Florida seaports contributed $1.7 billion in state and local taxes in 2008. All told, cargo activity at the state’s 14 public seaports accounted for 9% of the 2008 Florida Gross Domestic Product of $734.5 billion.

U. S. trade data recently cited by Governor Charlie Crist found that Florida’s international trade reached a record $130.5 billion in 2008, of which $82.5 billion flowed through the state’s seaports.

“Together, these figures clearly illustrate just how important our seaports are to Florida’s economy and standard of living,” said Bruce Brecheisen, vice president of Seaboard Marine, the Port of Miami’s largest cargo shipping line, and a director of the Florida Maritime Leadership Coalition. “Not only do our 14 ports provide hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs at businesses throughout the state and nearly $2 billion in tax revenues, but they also play a pivotal role in delivering the consumer goods and raw materials that keep Florida operating.”

Almost everything Floridians wear, eat, or use in their daily lives flows through our seaports. Goods include automobiles, lumber, cement, steel, t-shirts, blue jeans, coffee, fertilizer, melons and bananas, orange juice, furniture, household appliances, gasoline and other petroleum products, computer equipment, cell phones, and the list goes on.

The Martin Associates cargo study did not include economic impact of cruise operations, which are significant in Florida, the cruise capital of the world. According to the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), 54% of all U.S. cruise passengers boarded cruises from one of Florida’s cruise ports. The cruise industry generates 126,546 jobs and $5.2 billion in wages in Florida.

“When you add the cargo and cruise industries together, you get steady, good-paying jobs for Florida workers,” said Darryl “Mike D.” Payne, president of ILA Local 1526, in Fort Lauderdale and a director of the Florida Maritime Leadership Coalition. “Florida’s seaports make it possible to support our families and provide for our children’s future.”

Despite the seaports’ proven impact on Florida’s economy, the state invests less than 2% of its transportation funds on seaport infrastructure projects. That’s why Florida maritime leaders are advocating for more port funding this Legislative session as part of the state’s economic stimulus efforts.

Port infrastructure improvements yield a $6.90 return in economic activity for each $1 of state investment, according to studies sponsored by the Florida Department of Transportation.

“We are challenging the Governor and the Legislature to invest in our state’s seaports to quicken Florida’s economic revival,” said Phillip C. Allen, port director of the Port Everglades. “We are pledging to match state funding on a 50-50 basis, as we have consistently done in the past, to facilitate our ports’ continued competiveness in the global economy. Right now, we have 1,865 construction jobs at Port Everglades and more than 3,000 across the seaports. Those steady, well-paying jobs depend on it.”

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