PORT MANATEE -- At least two companies have expressed an interest in a partnership to build a new, state-of-the-art cold storage warehouse at Port Manatee, a port official said Monday.
Both companies -- Nordic Cold Storage and Logistec Corp. -- are large, nationally known firms and serious suitors, said Port Executive Director Carlos Buqueras.
"They're interested in exploring opportunities," said Buqueras.
At a meeting last month, port authority commissioners were surprised to find Ross Maple sitting in the audience, hoping for a chance to talk about a public-private partnership to build a new cold storage warehouse on the port's grounds.
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"I'm here to find out more about what the port is doing," Maple, the Atlanta-based director of business strategy for Nordic Logistics and Warehousing LLC, told the board.
The authority accepted a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, totaling $5.4 million, earmarked as matching funds for the warehouse construction.
"Clearly, this company is a major player in the cold storage and perishables business," said Buqueras, referring to Nordic. "They're a very significant company, and one that has shown particular interest in Port Manatee."
In April, the company opened a $30 million cold storage warehouse that occupies more than 200,000 square feet near the Port of Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.
Nordic is the second-largest cold storage operator in the Southeast and the eighth largest in North America, it said.
The new facility has been open a couple of months and
employs about 100. The company plans to expand to accommodate imported produce from Central America, and could eventually employ 350 to 400 people, the newspaper reported.
Still, Nordic is only one of the parties interested in Manatee's project, Buqueras said.
Logistec, a Montreal-based stevedoring company and terminal operator that already has a presence at the port, has also expressed an interest, he said.
"We're talking to them, and to other refrigerated operators," said Buqueras, noting that such warehouses are necessary to store perishable products, such as fruits and vegetables.
Buqueras hopes to build a modern cold storage facility with all the bells and whistles.
"We're in the process ofdeveloping projects," he said.
Efforts to reach Maple and Marc-André Dubois, Logistec's vice president, were unsuccessful Monday.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.