MANATEE -- Port Manatee is poised to accept a grant of more than $2 million from the Florida Department of Transportation to help build a giant cold storage warehouse, officials said Monday.
An additional $2,459,674 from FDOT would bring the project's total funding to $5,447,849, according to an agreement slated for approval Thursday during the Manatee County Port Authority meeting.
"We're looking for companies to invest with us under a public-private partnership in development of a cold storage facility to handle imported or exported perishable commodities -- fruits and vegetables," said Carlos Buqueras, port executive director.
The money will be used as a matching fund to attract a private company or companies to partner on a 50-50 basis, he said.
The advantage to the port would be construction of a state-of-the-art facility that would be a major hub for distribution of perishable commodities, Buqueras said.
Such a facility could also attract additional users, bringing new customers, "Especially with an eye on future expansion with Cuba," he said.
The state offers support to ports like Manatee's because it creates jobs, Buqueras said.
"For every dollar the state invests, it gets $7 back," he added.
Cold storage is a big issue for Florida because the state has so many products that come here from ports other than those located in the United States, said Jennifer Krell Davis, vice president of public affairs for the Florida Ports Council, which represents the state's 15 ports.
"If we could capture some of that business, we could create jobs, and also, it cuts the costs for the Florida consumer -- less transportation costs for the product," said Davis.
She illustrated her point by noting that when Gov. Rick Scott's trade delegation was in Chile recently, it discovered a majority of Chile's fresh grapes are sent through a port in Philadelphia, with a portion trucked down to Florida.
"So, if ports can create these facilities ... it will also save money for the shipping company and the Florida consumer," she said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitternote>