Port Manatee board: Oppose consolidation with Tampa port

skennedy@bradenton.comNovember 22, 2013 

Manatee County Port Authority members following adjournment Thursday. SARA KENNEDY/skennedy@bradenton.com

PORT MANATEE -- Fearing an unwanted consolidation, the Manatee County Port Authority on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution directing its staff to oppose any future merger plans with its bigger neighbor, the Port of Tampa.

The resolution directed the port staff to "protect Port Manatee's autonomy" and oppose any consolidation effort, so the port can continue to develop into a premier deepwater port.

"We're hearing our friends north of us are making calls to the governor's office," said Port Authority Chair Carol Whitmore, referring to those representing the Port of Tampa.

"I think Port Manatee

needs to take a stand, and let everybody know we're in the business, and we're going to take a stand."

Manatee County commissioners, who also sit as the port authority board, have been meeting recently with visitors from the Florida Department of Transportation, who sought to discuss consolidation.

"I was under the impression the governor was promoting collaboration, and not to favor or disfavor one port over another, and not to take business from one port to another," said Commissioner Robin DiSabatino.

The visitors got a chilly reception, authority members said. Local officials noted they have not asked for any discussion of the subject.

"We're not willing to merge with anyone," said Commissioner Betsy Benac.

The president of the Port Manatee Commerce Center, set on 23 acres and featuring warehouse, storage, office space, and transloading facilities just outside the port's gates, was also critical of the consolidation idea.

"I see consolidation as a redistribution of opportunity -- those who come to the table with the most opportunity lose, and those who come to the table with the least opportunity win," said Stanley A. Riggs. "And I feel Port Manatee will do best competing on its own."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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