MANATEE -- Gov. Rick Scott is expected to visit Port Manatee next week to attend a groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of construction for the extension of Berth 12, an official told the Manatee County Commission, sitting as the Manatee County Port Authority, Tuesday.
"We have a high level of confidence the governor and federal and state representatives will be there to join you in celebrating this event," said Port Executive Director Carlos Buqueras before the Port Authority board Tuesday.
The event will take place at 2 p.m. on Aug. 17 at the port, he said.
As part of the festivities, there will be a roundtable discussion and a port tour, Buqueras said.
Last fall, a multi-million dredging project concluded at the port.
The port's south channel to Berth 12 is now a little more than 40 feet deep, allowing plenty of space to handle big cargo ships coming through the Panama Canal.
The dredging also allowed for an extension of Berth 12 from 1,000 feet to 1,584 feet long, which is the construction project that will be the object of next week's ceremonies.
In other port news, county commissioners, sitting as the Port Authority, gave Buqueras a glowing performance evaluation, along with a 5 percent raise.
Commissioner Larry Bustle, who chairs the port authority, said it was clear to him that the port has "taken a step forward" under Buqueras' watch, not only locally but throughout the country.
His view was shared by Commissioner Donna Hayes, who said, "You've done such a marvelous job."
And Commissioner Michael Gallen said jokingly he wanted to continue "our love fest" for Buqueras.
Buqueras, formerly director of business development at Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades, was hired last winter from a pool of more than 80 applicants at a salary of $175,000. He took over in January from David McDonald, who retired after 20 years.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.