Representatives of auto manufacturers from Detroit and elsewhere in the U.S. are planning visits to Port Manatee, county officials said Tuesday.
The U.S. car manufacturers, some of whom are expected to visit within the next month or so, are considering Manatee County for expansion opportunities, said Port Executive Director Carlos Buqueras Tuesday.
"We're talking to all of them," Buqueras said.
Officials affiliated with the auto processor, PASHA Automotive Services, a division of The PASHA Group, are working with Port Manatee staff members to attract the auto companies, he said.
"Pasha was so impressed with us," Carol Whitmore, chairwoman of the Port Authority, said Tuesday during a Manatee County Commission meeting.
She added that she knew the name of at least one company coming to look at Port Manatee: Volkswagen. She wasn't sure about the others, she said.
Last month, the port took a step closer to entering the automotive processing industry after the Manatee County Port Authority signed a memorandum of understanding with Pasha Automotive Services. The Corte Madera, Calif.-based company exports and imports cars at seven ports around the country, including major importer/exporter Port of Baltimore. A new processing terminal in Manatee could bring between 100 and 200 jobs here. Pasha is set to take over a 174,000-square-foot warehouse as a processing center and park its cars on 45 acres, with an option to expand to 100 acres at the roll on/roll off facility, as opposed to a container operation. The agreement states at least 30 acres have to be contiguous. American cars assembled in Mexico would be imported to Port Manatee to be finished and inspected before going to dealerships. Cars could also be exported to Latin America. Joe Langley, principal analyst for IHS Automotive, an international firm that follows the auto industry, said Mexico, facing Florida's west coast across the Gulf of Mexico, is "just exploding" with car manufacturers.
German, Asian, American companies are all flocking to Mexico, he said, adding that production of vehicles is expected to grow there
by 50 percent between now and 2020.
"The thing is to have that proximity, versus just going over land -- being closer," he said. "You're on the west side, it gets you closer to the east coast, versus trucking all the way around."
With a flood of imported autos expected from Mexico to the U.S., "They've got to find a way here, somehow," he said.
Buqueras said the port is getting help from the owners of The PASHA Group. "They feel so strong, and if you look up The PASHA Group, they're in many ports," Buqueras said.
"They have contacts, knowledge, experience and reputation to do at Port Manatee what they've done at other ports in the U.S.," he added.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.