New boss at JaxPort says he is 'hands-on' guy

New port CEO Brian Taylor says deepening river important to 'stay in the game'

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The new CEO of Jacksonville Port Authority says there are big challenges and exciting opportunities ahead of him.

Brian Taylor, who took the reins of JaxPort Monday after a long career with Horizon Lines, spent his first day meeting people who work at JaxPort. On Tuesday, he sat down for his first media interviews, saying he plans to focus on improving the container business, the auto processing business and evaluating whether or not Jacksonville needs another cruise ship.

"I am anxious to dig in and get started," Taylor said. "We have access to a large population, we have a diversified cargo base here, and we have the facilities to support cargo growth in the container business, auto business. We have lot of attributes that will position JaxPort successfully on the East Coast."

Taylor says he's a "hands-on kind of guy" who demands accountability. Taylor takes control just one week after President Barack Obama visited the port to talk about the economy.

The Mile Point project -- an effort to tidal challenge to large ships near the mouth of the St. Johns River -- is a top priority for him, along with getting federal approval to dredge the river deeper for larger ships.

"Dredging the harbor is critically important to stay in the game, to attract the larger ships transporting East, West," Taylor said. "It's a long-term project. (There are a) lot of constituent groups who say what we can do and can't do."

Taylor says while he's been asked how he's going to turn JaxPort around, he says it doesn't need to be turned around. Instead, he'll focus on what's already working and make it better.

"I would hope we have some new business in here in a year," Taylor said of his goals. "I would hope we would have made significant progress in development of the container, new yard facility, and we are moving ahead with the Mile Point improvements."

Taylor, who comes to Jacksonville, from Charlotte, N.C., said the River City's cruise ship industry is something he's taking a close look at. Currently, Jacksonville only has one cruise liner. Taylor is exploring if it's time to expand.

"Right now obviously we have a limited presence in the cruise ship size of the business, and I do think that right now that is a contributor to the growth of this port," he said. "It's something that we are going to look at closely in that strategic plan."

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