West Coast Business Leaders Urge Capitalizing on the Panama Canal


Government, business leaders urge capitalizing on canal expansion
Oct 30, 2014, 2:47pm EDT

Wade Millward
Former Florida Senator George LeMieux listens to the business panel at a global trade symposium Thursday. LeMieux, now with the Gunster law firm, gave the event’s final presentation on the importance of global trade.

Wade Millward
Tampa Bay Business Journal
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With more investment, Florida can lead the Western Hemisphere in global trade, speakers preached to audience members at a Thursday symposium.
Two panels, one of government officials and a later one of trade and transport executives, highlighted conditions the state can use to capitalize on the finished $5.2 billion Panama Canal expansion next year.
They touted expansion projects also happening in the state to ease transportation congestion and provide a skilled workforce.
Tampa Bay Business Journal and Bank of America Merrill Lynch hosted the Tampa Bay Global Trade and Transportation Symposium at Port Tampa Bay.
Speakers from both panels demanded audience members request more spending from the Legislature to increase the state’s reputation as an international hub and surpass states such as California and New York.
“Somebody’s going to win this race,” moderator Tony Carvajal, who is Florida Chamber Foundation’s executive vice president, said at the panel’s close. “We’ve got to do this now.”
The port is adding 25 acres and expanding to seven total docking cruise lines in time for cruise season starting Sunday, CEO Paul Anderson said. It’s in negotiations with manufacturers, including a handful from Latin America, to open in Tampa Bay.
Tampa International Airport will finish an expansion by 2017 and is negotiating direct flights from Europe to encourage tourism and foreign companies to open local regional offices, CEO Joe Lopano said.
The Florida Department of Transportation is widening Interstate 75 from the Georgia border to Alligator Alley to six lanes, assistant secretary Rich Biter said.
Hillsborough County will open a small business center for entrepreneurs in two weeks, County Commissioner Sandra Murman said.
“We will be the place where everybody wants to be,” the commissioner said.
During the business panel, Bob O’Malley, CSX resident vice president of state government and community affairs, said CSX will hire a few thousand workers for upcoming projects and to replace retiring employees.
CSX opened a distribution center in Winter Haven to act as statewide hub and broke ground on a 400,000-square-foot nearby space for retailers, O’Malley said.
The lesson from the symposium should be the necessity of government creating business opportunities while companies deliver more trade, said panel moderator and Florida Chamber of Commerce global outreach director Alice Ancona.
One recent success: Tampa International Airport recruiting Copa Airlines, which offers flights between Tampa and Panama City, Panama.
“The partnership I’ve seen here is how we can together grow international trade,” said Fernando Fondevila, Copa Airlines regional commercial manager for North America.
Wade Millward is a reporter for the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

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