TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – More money will be floated yearly to the state's 15 seaports under a wide-ranging transportation bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Rick Scott.
The measure (HB 7027) boosts the minimum annual funding for the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development program -- administered by the Florida Ports Council -- from $15 million to $25 million.
Florida Ports Council President and CEO Doug Wheeler said the state has seen an uptick in tonnage and the number of containers coming through its ports since the global recession ended and the money will help further position "Florida as a global competitor."
Scott has been a proponent of the state's port system since he and the Legislature took a 2010 trade and logistics study by the Florida Chamber of Commerce as their blueprint for port spending.
The Legislature provided about $850 million for port upgrades and expansion during Scott's first five years in office. The biggest beneficiaries have been PortMiami, JaxPort, Port Tampa Bay and Port Canaveral.
Among the results of those efforts is that Florida has gotten shippers to reroute some fresh produce that had been imported through Philadelphia, and last year Porsche and Volkswagen announced they would switch their entry into the Southeast through JaxPort after more than a decade using the Port of Brunswick, Ga.
During the upcoming fiscal year, Florida's overall $82 billion budget includes $153 million for port projects administered by the Department of Transportation.
With the added money flowing through the Ports Council, the state will surpass $1 billion in ports funding by 2018, a figure Scott campaigned on during his 2014 re-election.
Wheeler said the council hasn't set how the Seaport Transportation and Economic Development money will be disbursed in the upcoming year.
"I think what you'll see is a continuation of investing in projects that address some of the critical growth needs that we've been dealing with over the last several years," Wheeler said.
That means the money could help cover costs for such things as dredging, buying new equipment such as cranes to offload and load cargo or terminal upgrades and parking for cruise ship facilities.
The program requires a local match for most projects.