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Port Industry Players Meet for Infrastructure Financing

April 1, 2013 - 6:00pm

Dovetailing from President Barack Obamas recent trip to try to garner public support for infrastructure spending, the Port of Miami will be hosting the
Port & Intermodal Finance & Investment SummitApril 16-18.

Obama, who drew the ire of Florida Gov. Rick Scott for his trip, announced a suite of bonds and other incentives to boost spending on roads, bridges and ports while visiting South Florida.

"Investing in infrastructure not only makes our roads, bridges and ports safer and gives our businesses and workers the tools to compete successfully in the global economy, it also creates thousands of good American jobs that cannot be outsourced," he said.

Scott lashed out at the president, saying Florida has had to invest $425 million in its ports during his time in office because the federal government was slow in distributing the funding it had pledged. Florida advanced $75 million in federal guarantees for the Port of Miami and $36 million for the Port of Jacksonville.

Were certainly glad President Obama visited the Port of Miami ... but he was late," Scott told reporters Monday.

Moving past the political rhetoric, event organizers are keeping their eye on the big prize post-Panama Canal expansion. In order to increase maritime commerce competitiveness, expand revenues and create jobs, American ports are promoting multimillion-dollar plans to seize the benefits of the greater number of post-Panamax ships expected to call at American ports as a result of increased traffic through the Panama and Suez canals. AAPA reports that U.S. ports and their private sector marine terminal partners are planning to spend at least a combined $46 billion in port-related improvements through 2016, organizers said.

With the keynote speech from former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barber, founding partner of BGR Group, the Port & Intermodal Finance & Investment Summit will bring together all members of the transportation behemoth -- port authorities, terminal operators, shipping lines, intermodal carriers and financial players to build a dialogue through each units perspectives to form understanding with the goal of developing financial models that will support infrastructure projects.

With limited government funds available, port authorities say they are exploring how to foster partnerships with the private sector and financial community. Creative financial approaches, they say, will allow ports to move their plans forward. At the same time, they believe that the private sector sees ports as sound investments and is seeking openings to finance port and intermodal infrastructure expansion.

Also participating in the working groups will be Paul Anderson, CEO of the Jacksonville Port Authority; James Hertwig, CEO of Florida East Coast Railway; Adam Beauchamp of APM Terminals; Richard Biter of the Florida Department of Transportation; Bill Johnson, executive director of the Port of Miami; and members of the Virginia Port Authority, Port of Houston Authority and Goldman Sachs.

Anne Smith writes special to Sunshine State News.

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