October 21, 2014

Marine Industries

Trendsetters: Marine Industries

Mike Vogel | 8/1/2007

Testing the Waters

On Lori Baer’s mind is finding an entrepreneur willing to risk fast-ferry service to the Bahamas. Also in her plans is widening and deepening the Port of Palm Beach’s troublesome channel. She’s contemplating an inland logistics “port” for warehousing, distribution and manufacturing in western Palm Beach County. She needs to get revenue up, keep costs down, bring in more passenger business and tackle a host of other goals.

Lori Baer
"I never could have imagined how hard it would be to be the director and how much responsibility it is."
— Lori Baer

Port of Palm Beach, Executive Director, Riviera Beach

Hobbies: A 1987 Porsche, Porsche Club of America autocross events, and, through her husband, Jerry, tropical fish
Future: “I’m a big fan of development of fast ferries.” Cloud X, the last one in Palm Beach, closed last year, citing rising fuel costs and hurricane disruptions.
Trade: “U.S. trade with the Caribbean, as a trading bloc, is more than U.S. trading with India. The economy in many of the Caribbean countries is booming.”
Only woman port director in Florida: “I’m Florida’s first. I’m proud of that.”

So it goes for the first woman director at one of Florida’s 14 deep-water ports. The Miami native, 51, took over three years ago this month. Since then, the port has weathered hurricanes, a “true terrorist threat,” questions over a building project and financial struggles. It stands to lose $1 million this year on $12.5 million in revenue. “We had a couple of bad — not bad — tough years,” Baer says. “I think we’ve turned the corner. I never could have imagined how hard it would be to be the director and how much responsibility it is.”

Nearly 2,000 workers, from drivers to stevedores, derive their livelihood from the port. It’s a major supplier of consumer goods to the Caribbean, an important handler of sugar, steel and construction materials and ranks in the top 20 nationally for containers. Under way is a new south gate project that adds a warehouse and improves the cargo handling area layout.

A Florida State University graduate, Baer came up on the marketing, public relations and legislative affairs side of the business and worked for the Port of Miami, the American Association of Port Authorities in Washington, industry consultants and then as deputy director of the Palm Beach port. “It really is the kind of business that gets in your blood,” she says. “It’s such a stimulating industry.”

Tags: Trendsetters, North Central

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