Two weeks after President Barack Obama visited Jacksonville Port Authority to promote his economic agenda, he used his televised interview with Jay Leno to slip in a plug for Jacksonville and two other southeastern ports seeking federal funds to deepen their waterways to accommodate larger cargo ships.
Appearing Tuesday on NBC's "The Tonight Show," the president told Leno that U.S. ports on the East and Gulf coasts need deeper harbors to stay competitive as the Panama Canal finishes a major expansion in 2015 that will give supersized cargo ships a shortcut between the U.S. and Asia.
"If we don't deepen our ports all along the Gulf -- places like Charleston, South Carolina, or Savannah, Georgia, or Jacksonville, Fla.," the president told the comedian, "if we don't do that, those ships are going to go someplace else. And we'll lose jobs. Businesses won't locate here."
After a brief tour of the waterfront at Blount Island Terminal on July 25, Obama told the crowd: "We've got to create more jobs today doing what you are doing right here at JaxPort, and that's building this country's future. We need modern schools for our kids. We need modern power grids and fuel networks that can withstand stronger storms, and we need modern ports so we can move more goods made in America out to the rest of the world."
Wednesday afternoon, JaxPort CEO Brian Taylor released a statement saying he was grateful that the president recognizes this issue will benefit the region and the entire nation.
“His remarks here in person recently and now on national TV signal his desire to move this discussion forward," Taylor said. "Now we’d like to see all of the projects he mentioned be included in federal budgets and plans in order to keep this country competitive and our citizens working.”