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Port Manatee plans $22.9M in upgrades. Here’s why none of that will come from your tax dollars

A bird’s-eye view of Port Manatee

Port Manatee is described in this promotional video published by Manatee County Government in 2017 as Southwest Florida's premier deepwater seaport located at the entrance to Tampa Bay. It adds more than $2.3 billion annually in local economic imp
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Port Manatee is described in this promotional video published by Manatee County Government in 2017 as Southwest Florida's premier deepwater seaport located at the entrance to Tampa Bay. It adds more than $2.3 billion annually in local economic imp

The growing importance of Port Manatee is not always apparent to residents, even with the port’s $2.3 billion annual economic impact.

But this news out of Thursday’s Manatee County Port Authority meeting should grab the attention of property owners, who see their taxes used to support everything from law enforcement to teachers to parks and recreation.

To keep up with the growth of business at the port, the Manatee County Commission, sitting as the port authority, approved resolutions to spend $22,915,555 to expand facilities at the port.

The good news for homeowners: None of their property taxes will be used.

The Florida Department of Transportation is providing a sizable chunk of money, and the rest will come from port authority reserves earned from business done at the port.

Specifically, the port will renovate and expand berth four, which will allow ships to be loaded and unloaded there and in berth five at the same time. The port will also expand the container yard to handle additional cargo.

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Nearly $23 million in berth and container yard improvements are being planned at Port Manatee. The improvements will be funded by the Florida Department of Transportation and port reserve funds. Bradenton Herald file photo

FDOT is providing $11,374,166 for the berth project and $3,791,389 for the container yard.

The rest will come from the port’s $18.7 million in reserves, a record amount, according to Port Manatee executive director Carlos Buqueras.

The financing of the improvements marks the improving fortunes at the port.

“I remember having to borrow money to match a grant,” port authority member Carol Whitmore said of previous improvements.

Better yet, authority member Steve Jonsson said the port is making enough money that reserves will replenish themselves over the two- to three-year life of the construction projects.

Potential return of cruise ships could help diversify Port Manatee.

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