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Lead letter: "Ports are vital to economy of the nation"

February 24, 2012

Florida Times-Union

Lead letter: "Ports are vital to economy of the nation"
February 24, 2012

All of us who care about the future economic vitality of our country, our state and our city will recognize the significance of having the U.S. Conference of Mayors Metro Exports and Ports Task Force, chaired by our own Mayor Alvin Brown, gather here in Jacksonville to discuss ways to promote critical investment in our national gateways, our seaports.

Mayors: We warmly welcome you and thank you on behalf of generations of North Floridians to come as the fruits of your labor — a globally competitive, state-of-the-art U.S. port system — will have lasting, far-reaching benefits for all.

It is not going to be easy to win the level of investment that’s needed now. We are up against apathy that has brought us to the brink of failure, since seaports have never been on the federal government’s list of visionary investments.

Perhaps that’s because spending money on modernizing docks and equipment, maintaining the nation’s waterways and digging deeper to accommodate today’s larger ships seem like so much housekeeping.

Or perhaps it’s because the individual lawmaker’s constituent, the American consumer, gives little thought to how products move to the shelf at their local retailer.

Imagine the public outcry should our consumer products get stuck on the docks because we no longer have the infrastructure to move them.

Our economy is linked to our waterways and international trade, and with proper strategic investment now, our full national recovery will come by sea.

Consider the facts:

- Every dollar invested in port facilities returns seven-fold.
- Ships carry over 90 percent of all U.S. cargo, imports and exports.
- International trade accounts for more than a quarter of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
- And 13 million Americans work in positions related to international trade.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation projects that between 2001 and 2020 total freight moved through our ports will increase by more than 50 percent and the volume of international container traffic will at least double.

Many of our nation’s most critical port projects are stuck in neutral because of overlapping bureaucracy and lukewarm commitment from Washington.

Our future reputation will be based on whether we improve our gateways to the world.

Thanks to the mayor and U.S. Conference of Mayors Task Force members for understanding the importance of port investment, for acknowledging that this is not just an east coast or west coast challenge, that this is a national challenge to be addressed and overcome together.

Paul Anderson,
CEO, Jacksonville Port Authority, former federal Maritime commissioner

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