JACKSONVILLE, Fla – The Jacksonville Port Authority on Monday morning released its new economic report, which concluded cargo activity through the seaport generates more than 26,000 jobs in Northeast Florida and $31.1 billion in annual economic output for the region and state.
Despite critics to the deepening of the channel, JaxPort says the report shows there has been both port and job growth as harbor deepening project progresses.
"There is more to come," said Vincent Cameron, president of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1408 who knows better than most just how successful JaxPort has been over the years. "When we finish this dredging, we are going to go right through the roof."
Cameron, who supervises on the ground as workers load and unload cargo, said he's seen the uptick in work volume first hand.
"Investing in the dredging was an uphill battle, trying to convince a port city that investing in the port was a good thing because it's the infrastructure of the city but seeing it come to fruition ... we are excited about it," Cameron said. "It's a boom for the city."
That boom includes JaxPort reaching goals that were not set to come until 2020.
The study released Monday concluded that 26,282 people in the Jacksonville area were employed with port-related jobs -- a nearly 8% increase from the last report released five years ago. Those jobs pay an average annual salary of $70,570. In comparison, the average salary across the state of Florida for all jobs in $46,010.
That's why Cameron said college students should be considering a job with JaxPort.
"Give the maritime arena try," he said. "See if it's your cup of tea because it has some long legs to it."
The 2013 study found 24,340 people in the Jacksonville area were employed with port-related jobs. It also found jobs created by the port paid an average annual salary of $51,600, which is considerably more than the Jacksonville metropolitan statistical area average wage of $38,629.
The new study also found the port’s total economic value of $31.1 billion has increased 15% since 2013.
JaxPort is also doing well trading with Asia, with the report finding cargo growth up 89% since 2013. JaxPort contributes that growth to the deepening of the shipping channel to 47 feet. That project is still ongoing and is expected to be completed in 2023.
Cameron said despite concern, the port and environmentalists have been working hand in hand to manage the channel.
"The environmentalist had legitimate concerns that I've never discounted even to this day and I applaud them for closing monitoring this," he said.
In March, JaxPort announced a long-term agreement with SSA Marine. The agreement includes a $238.7 million investment. Officials said part of that money will be used for the ongoing harbor dredging project and for the addition of 30 acres on Blount Island to allow the terminal to expand. The 25-year agreement is expected to create or protect 3,000 jobs.