Port Tampa Bay well positioned for the future, CEO says

January 28, 2015

Jamal Thalji | Tampa Bay Times
The state of Port Tampa Bay is good, CEO Paul Anderson said, and it’s getting better.
But the port isn’t just focused on improvement, Anderson told a crowd of more than 300 gathered for the annual state of the port address on Tuesday.
Port Tampa Bay is hoping that two years of branding, marketing and infrastructure investments will soon pay off with new cargos — and new revenues.
“Our plans for diversifying and expanding our lines of businesses, our infrastructure, our new business opportunities (with) the expansion of the Panama Canal and our opportunities in Latin America are all coming into focus,” Anderson said. “All of it is coming closer and closer.”
During his speech, the port chief shared news of the port’s growing strength: tenant Tampa Tank Inc. and Florida Structural Steel will add 108 jobs to its Tampa operation. It will add 24 jobs to its Ybor City headquarters and 84 manufacturing jobs to a refurbished facility in Port Redwing.
Tampa Tank will spend up to $18.3 million on its expansion, taking over an existing 40,000-square-foot facility and building a new 120,000-square-foot building. The company will receive a package of local and state incentives worth $2 million. Tampa Tank was established 61 years ago and acquired Florida Structural Steel 30 years ago.
“The time-honored craft of shipbuilding is alive and well at Port Tampa Bay,” Anderson said. “It contributes to a real and vital role of leveraging economic assets and building jobs.”
The port is also in good financial shape, Anderson said, touting its record $48 million in revenue generated in fiscal year 2014 and its “strong” credit rating. The port also saw a 3.5 percent increase in cargo tonnage.
The cruise business had more than 888,000 passengers travel through Tampa in the last fiscal year, and Anderson said he expects those number to remain strong, with six ships docking at his port this year.
But while Port Tampa Bay is hoping to capitalize on increased shipping when the Panama Canal expansion is finished, port executive vice president Raul Alfonso looked even further into the future to possible trade with Cuba.
“We’re often asked, ‘Are you prepared for Cuba trade?’ ” Alfonso said. “Yes, we’re ready.
“Once the embargo is lifted (with Cuba), I can promise you that we can become the port we used to be.”
The port also invited Tampa Bay Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke to the stage to talk about his boss Jeff Vinik’s $1 billion plan to redevelop downtown Tampa’s waterfront around Amalie Arena.
Leiweke said that during a recent trip to Columbus, Ohio, for the NHL All-Star weekend, he checked out the city’s new Arena District redevelopment and the urban redevelopment efforts in downtown Buffalo, N.Y.
While paddleboarding from his Davis Islands home to his office at Amalie Arena, Leiweke said he paused to take in the vacant area Vinik has promised to transform.
“If we can’t figure this out,” Leiweke said, “shame on us.”