Photo: Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce
Florida TaxWatch Economic Commentary
Florida is poised to benefit from new intermodal centers
Expanding the state's ability to move goods and services efficiently will result in lower freight prices for Florida consumers and businesses.
Thanks to long-term planning efforts, the state of Florida and its private companies have strategically invested in preparing Florida to be one of the most efficient trade and logistics hubs in the world. Florida is now poised to capitalize on its central location as a global transportation hub with easy access to the rest of the U.S., to Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa.
To make the movement of cargo more efficient and less costly, improvements in freight handling and transfers have become critical components of the logistics system. One of the most significant additions to Florida’s system has been an increase in Intermodal Centers.
These Centers facilitate the movement of cargo between different types of transportation (most commonly ship to rail and then to truck) with increased efficiency and lower costs. Nationally, these efficiencies are leading to record highs for intermodal freight volume in the U.S.1
Florida has been planning for its transportation future
Investments to increase the efficiency of transporting Florida passengers, freight, and space payloads have been made possible due to a substantial amount of planning and cooperation between the Florida Legislature, private-sector partners including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, multiple public and private stakeholders, and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
Florida adopted its first Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) Plan in 2005. The SIS Plan changed the way FDOT and its partners prepare for the future, and it has become the blueprint for investments in the components of Florida’s transportation system. The 2010 update focused on improving transportation of people and goods, using investments in significant transportation facilities. The Plan is required to be updated every 5 years, with the next update expected in December 2015.
In 2011, Enterprise Florida added Logistics to its Qualified Target Industry list, allowing qualifying expansions of Florida businesses or relocations of qualified logistics businesses to Florida to be eligible for economic development incentives. That same year, the Office of Freight, Logistics and Passenger Operations was created within the FDOT.
In 2012, the Florida Legislature passed HB599, which directed the FDOT to develop the Freight Mobility and Trade Plan (Freight Plan). The goals of that plan include increasing the flow of trade in and through Florida, increasing intermodal centers, increasing manufacturing, and increasing the use of natural gas and propane to reduce transportation costs.
The Freight Plan, which included the input of more than 700 stakeholders, established the Strategic Port Investment Initiative and the Intermodal Logistics Center Infrastructure Support Program (Infrastructure Support Program) within the FDOT. The Infrastructure Support Program provides seed funding for businesses that meet established criteria for projects that support Florida’s transportation network2. Funded at $5 million per year, these funds have been used to help Florida’s logistics companies increase their competitiveness. There were four projects funded during the first year across the state: in Panama City, Jacksonville, Palmetto and Miami. Combined, these projects used the $5 million in state funds to support more than $46 million in infrastructure development.
The investment element of the Freight Plan was recently completed, and was adopted by the FDOT on September 17, 2014. The importance of the investment element of the plan is that it identifies and prioritizes nearly $32 billion of projects to address Florida’s freight transportation needs. These investments will be implemented with cooperation of the FDOT, Enterprise Florida, the Department of Economic Opportunity, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and CareerSource Florida, along with other private-sector partners.
1 Journal of Commerce. Another Record High for US Intermodal Volume. Sept. 2014.
2 Florida TaxWatch. Shaping the Future of Florida Transportation & Logistics. Sept. 2013.
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