JAXUSA Partnership President Jerry Mallot moderated the panel. The panelists included JAXPORT Chief Operating Officer Chris Kauffmann, Port of Fernandina Director Val Schwec, Dr. Fran Bohnsack of the U.S. Maritime Administration and Rayonier Vice President of Public Affairs Charley Hood, chair of the Chamber’s Public Policy Committee. All agree the port of Jacksonville is one of the most important economic drivers to the Northeast Florida region.
“Ports and the efficient movement of goods are the foundation of our nation’s economy, supporting job growth and positive economic benefit,” Hood said. “Our port is an economic engine for high-wage jobs and investment in our region and will remain one of the Chamber’s top priorities.”
Speakers discussed physical infrastructure as part of the Innovate Northeast Florida Strategic Implementation Plan recommendations. The plan states that Northeast Florida’s physical infrastructure is one of its key differentiators among other regions and a much-needed foundation for target industry growth.
JAXPORT COO Chris Kauffmann shared insight into how the region can accomplish some of the recommendations, including advocating for state and federal funding for major infrastructure projects and resolving the Mile Point issue.
Northeast Florida’s highways, seaports, railroads and airports are assets that could make the region one of the nation’s major gateways for freight, according to a logistics and transportation report commissioned by the North Florida Logistics Advisory Group. The assessment recommends civic and business leaders work to develop and market the region as a transportation gateway so that Northeast Florida is top of mind when the federal government develops a national plan for moving freight around the country.
The region is geographically positioned for development as the nation’s transportation gateway. The international seaport’s westernmost location on the Eastern seaboard puts the region within 24 hours of 60 million consumers. Jacksonville is already the number one container port in Florida, the number one vehicle exporter in the United States and the primary Florida port handling military equipment shipments. The number of vehicles transported through the port increased by 31 percent in the past three years while cargo containers increased by 18 percent.
Northeast Florida is at the intersection of three major transportation routes – Interstates 10, 95 and 75 – and served by three major rail lines with more activity than any other East Coast city, four airports and hundreds of trucking companies. The region is already identified as “America’s Logistics Center” because it serves as the headquarters for numerous logistics companies.
“With many achievements and tremendous opportunities within reach, our region is positioned for continued economic development and growth in the transportation and logistics industry,” Mallot said. “The leaders at the JAX Chamber are actively involved in marketing our region’s potential as a logistics, freight and intermodal gateway and ensure continued success.”