by Art Levy
Before accepting the offer to become CEO of the Tampa Port Authority, Paul Anderson studied the port’s container numbers: Each year, the port handles about 40,000 containers. By contrast, the Port of Jacksonville — where Anderson was CEO since 2011 — handles about 950,000 containers a year.
Jacksonville also imports about 1.1 million tons of vehicles a year, compared to less than 12,000 tons arriving through Tampa.
Anderson took the Tampa job anyway.
“I think there’s a lot more I can do here,” he says. “The ability to impact jobs and have an economic impact is greater here than anywhere in the state.”
To attract more cargo, Anderson will be targeting imports from Latin America, the Caribbean and, when the market eventually opens up, Cuba.
“The terminal here has the capability to handle about a quarter of a million containers, and we can expand it to handle a million,” he says.
“Moving cargo imports to the Southeast on the new rail we’ve recently built here will be a very ripe opportunity for business development on the container side. We’re going to look at cars. There’s a lot of investment that’s made by automobile manufacturers from around the world in Mexico, and we are ideally suited to import those vehicles.”
Anderson also sees opportunity by whittling away business from ports in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Calif., Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C. Those ports alone, he says, handle 60% of the cargo destined for Florida.
“We should be getting the jobs that go along with supplying cargo to our own state,” he says. “And it’s not just Tampa. All of the state’s ports need to work together to capture this cargo.”