Recap: State of Port Canaveral ’14

It started in a port terminal. Terminal 6, to be exact, in the second-busiest seaport in the U.S. The 2014 State of Port address brought a full house to hear CEO John Walsh speak on Port Canaveral’s latest endeavors. There was networking, a port tour and even mini quiche. The opening video teased topics like ship-to-shore cranes, multimodal logistic centers and more entertainment options than any other seaport. It was 9 a.m., and we were just getting started.

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Chairman Tom Weinberg took the stage introducing Terminal 6, the most recent terminal at Port Canaveral. A throne soon to be conquered by Terminal 1, which will occupy the South side after the $50.5 million project is completed in November of 2014.

Then came the man of the hour. Walsh took the stage and the address set sail. He tossed out impressive statistics to the eager crowd: Gov. Rick Scott has dedicated $1 billion to ports, up from $600 million. Port Canaveral has a five-year, $556 million campaign that could reach $1 billion in 10 years. The port generated $2 billion in business revenue and created 17,000 jobs in 2012 —a 73 percent increase in three years. Walsh laughed, recalling the days of “the little port who could.” Those days are long gone, he adds.

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But first, he thanks Brevard County and the initial tax payers who helped the Port grow in its early stages. Walsh estimated a 20 percent return on initial investment. Port Canaveral hasn’t charged the county taxes since 1986, a favor it intends to keep with the promise of expanding economic impact from $3.5 billion to $20 billion in the next decade. “We are anchor up and stowed. We’re ready for the challenges,” said Walsh.

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Cove Master

Image credit: Port Canaveral

The Port has four core business lines: Cruise, Cargo, Recreation and Entertainment. Each is an essential part of Port Canaveral and very much in expansion mode. For example, there’s the new Exploration Tower, along with eight first-class dock facilities and the newest addition, The Cove. “This time next year, we’ll have bulldozers in the ground building The Cove,” said Walsh, citing details. The Cove will  be a seven-story, 22,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor facility with exhibit space, event venue, auditorium, gift shop and cafe. The price tag: $23.5 million.

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It doesn’t stop there. Port Canaveral is expanding to a depth of 55 feet—the only port in the Southeast where that can happen. This enhances the possibilities for international trade. In fact, cargo contracts already are increasing. Morton Salt, a longtime tenant, has re-signed for 10 years and an additional 2 acres. The company will invest $5 million in expanding the Morton plant, sustaining 40 jobs and adding 10 more. With cargo and trade comprising a growing industry in Florida, Port Canaveral will move “4 million tons this year, double in tonnage and triple in revenue over 3 years.”

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Monday, June 23 will bring a big announcement about Project Pelican and a 20-year lease. The announcement will reveal the name of a large cargo company. Walsh says Project Pelican will create 500 jobs at the port with a possibility of up to 5,000 in the next decade. An estimated $382 million in income from rent and fees will come from the lease of 20 acres that could double in size over time.

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The numbers don’t lie: Importing and exporting is a $168 billion industry in Florida, compared to $89 billion in tourism. Florida is ripe for trade. International trade via ports accounts for 32 percent of the U.S. GDP. That number will increase to 37 percent by 2015 and to 60 percent by 2030. Port Canaveral is busting out of the tourism stereotype that is cast on so many seaports in Florida. Ambitious plans are designed to expand the area from bedroom communities to bustling areas of economic prosperity.

Sunshine. Economic growth. Beautiful, clean water. Port Canaveral is working hard to prove you can have it all.