Blog: Florida Governor Rick Scott to trumpet port terminal in jobs hunt

Jul 6, 2011

The following article was posted to the Saint PetersBlog in the St. Petersburg Times on July 6, 2011:

Gov. Scott to trumpet port terminal in jobs hunt

By Peter Schorsch

Gov. Rick Scott will add 200 more jobs to his tally this week when he trumpets the opening of Keystone Terminals at the port in Jacksonville, and the terminal’s first customer, Vulcan Materials, reports David Royse of the News Service of Florida.

While the jobs, to be announced in a celebration ceremony on Wednesday at the terminal, will be created on Scott’s watch, they’re like some others the governor has claimed credit for in that they’ve been in the works since long before he was elected.

Keystone recently finished construction of the $100 million port terminal that followed a long legal fight with the Jacksonville Port Authority over use of the site. Keystone, primarily a coal company, first announced plans to build the terminal in August of 2009.

Still, the new project will be a showcase for Scott’s vision of a major economic driver over the next several years: increased use of Florida ports – although the ships Vulcan will use aren’t the monster ships that will fit through the expanded Panama Canal that Scott wants to lure to use Florida ports.

Vulcan, which has already offloaded its first shipment at the terminal, will ship limestone from its quarry in Mexico using ships that can fit through the current Panama Canal.

Keystone will also use the terminal for coal and aggregate shipments by rail. Privately-held Keystone, based in Fort Myers, sells coal and other fuels.

For Scott – even if the jobs are being created as the result of an expansion announced almost two years ago – the event could serve as a harbinger of what has become a major economic development goal: making Florida into a prime place on the east coast to dock for cargo ships, the way it already is for cruise ships.

Florida is currently a long way away from being the global container ship magnet that Scott envisions, with the state’s ports currently behind New York, Charleston, Savannah, Norfolk and other east coast ports.

Several experts said in a recent St. Petersburg Times story on the governor’s ports aspirations that the state isn’t geographically suited to become a major shipping hub – in part because once goods get to the state they’re far from the rest of the country. But it noted that other factors, such as established trade with Latin America and the coming canal expansion could help boost the state.

Scott has already pushed $77 million to Miami to deepen the shipping channel there to accommodate the larger ships that will use the Panama Canal after its expansion, and pledged continued efforts to improve infrastructure at many of the state’s 14 ports.

For Vulcan, one thing that would really make the Jacksonville project successful would be a turn-around in construction, particularly in north Florida.

“This is a strategic location for Vulcan to efficiently supply aggregates to all parts of Jacksonville due to its central location and easy access to I-95 and I-10,” Scott McCaleb, Vulcan’s Florida Rock Division vice president said last month. “Vulcan will sell limestone and granite from the Keystone Terminal with sales revenues anticipated to exceed $20 million per year.”

McCaleb told the Florida Times Union earlier this year that Vulcan is banking on an eventual construction rebound in Florida that will drive demand for limestone, and that $20 million figure depends on that.

The company also hopes to take advantage of improvement in the energy sector as the operator of the port’s only private coal terminal.

In a sign of the importance of the terminal’s opening, Scott is expected to visit on Wednesday, as is new Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

Scott will add the 200 jobs to the tally he’s keeping as part of his pledge to create more than 700,000 in two terms. Scott recently said that since he took office his administration has created 76,800 jobs, and a spokesman said Tuesday that was based on Agency for Workforce Innovation figures through May.

Find this article here: