Manatee Commissioners hope to school Scott on Port Manatee

mjohnson@bradenton.comFebruary 7, 2014 

On Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott helps dedicate Air Products and Chemicals Inc. at Port Manatee.GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

PORT MANATEE -- Gov. Rick Scott may get a 10-minute crash course in everything Port Manatee next week if a delegation from the port gets some alone time with him in Tallahassee.

He'll also get an earful about any plans -- real or perceived -- to consolidate Port Manatee with Port Tampa Bay.

During a special meeting Thursday of the Port Manatee Authority Board of Commissioners, Chairwoman Carol Whitmore enumerated the port's legislative agenda for 2014 -- an agenda she and other port representatives will try to push in front of Scott, legislators and agencies at the state Capitol on Wednesday and Thursday.

Priorities include keeping the port independent, grabbing a piece of the governor's proposed $139 million for 2014 port funding and supporting Enterprise Florida's efforts to market the state internationally.

Whitmore said she has yet to hear whether the governor will see the delegation. If he does, she will deliver the message quickly and succinctly.

"We're staying in his face," she said.

Scott most recently visited Port Manatee in January when Air Products opened its new manufacturing plant across the street from port property. With that visit in his recent memory, Scott will likely get a rundown of the port's vital statistics during next week's meeting. Whitmore said the port added $2.3 billion to the state economy in 2013, it supported 24,000 Florida jobs and it is one of Florida's largest ports, moving 9 million tons of goods last year.

Whitmore took particular care to note Port Manatee is the closest U.S. port to the Panama Canal, which is being expanded to accommodate larger ships.

"Port Manatee is the closest port to Panama, even though Tampa said otherwise," she said.

Scott's office spokesman said it is not certain whether the governor will be in Tallahassee the two days the port delegation is there. If Scott is unable to meet with the delegation, members of the governor's staff will try to accommodate them, he said.

The top agenda item is Port Manatee's independence. In November, port commissioners passed a resolution

to oppose any plans to consolidate Port Manatee with Port Tampa Bay. Whitmore said the delegation will tell Scott and legislators that Port Manatee "opposes any efforts to consolidate or remove autonomy."

Maintaining independence means fighting for resources. While Whitmore says she isn't pointing fingers at other ports that may have received preferential treatment from the state, she stressed Port Manatee needs its "fair share" of funding.

Dave Sanford, who also spoke Thursday, said getting funds from the $139 million administered by the Florida Department of Transportation is particularly important. The port is looking for about $60 million to upgrade and repair eight of its 10 berths.

A lobbyist working for the port is scheduling appointments for the delegation with legislators and agencies in Tallahassee, including FDOT.

Other port commissioners scheduled to travel to Tallahassee are Betsy Benac and Vanessa Baugh.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service