UNF Students Aim For JaxPort Funding

Group Asks Lawmakers For $40M To Improve JaxPort For Future

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On any given day, you could be drinking coffee from Columbia, eating fruit from Central America or wearing clothes made in China.

Ever think about how they get to the River City?

One group does, and it wants Jacksonville residents to as well. Its grassroots movement called Support Our Port is aimed at getting funding for JaxPort expansion.

"The port is transportation. That's what we are," University of North Florida student Albrex Cortez said.

JaxPort is a family affair for Cortez. The transportation and logistics major hopes to work there, just like his dad. So all 32 members of his family, along with a group of UNF students, put pen to paper asking for funding for JaxPort.

"By doing this, they know the future is bright for us," Cortez said.

So far, they've written nearly 2,000 letters to lawmakers at every level asking for the $40 million necessary to improve JaxPort and capture new business. The students say they are looking at it like the investment it is -- a job.

"There's $19 billion worth of transactions that go through the port every year that support 65,000 jobs in northeast Florida," UNF student Wesley Jones said.

There are a number of improvements that the port needs government funding for, but the biggest is a project called Mile Point, which restricts when ships can come into port and how big they can be. Once the Panama Canal opens its wider doors in 2015, JaxPort won't be able to handle those larger ships that will carry more goods, create more jobs and bring in more money.

"People don't know about it. We've got to get the word out there. We're bringing the noise for a reason," UNF student Paula Nelson said.