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Wednesday November 26th 2014

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Hayward holds PNJ Port Photo Shoot. No gunshots fired

After reading the press release, PNJ story and our reporter’s notes, I find myself asking, “Where’s the beef” Months after the Port Advisory Committee releases its report, Mayor Ashton Hayward tells us what? He will push for an expansion of Off-Shore Inland’s presence, boot CEMEX and look for money for improvements. He gives no timetable. Hardly decisive leadership.

It would have been better, and more meaningful, for the mayor to announce he had inked an agreement for the Off Shore Inland expansion (after all, the company has been at the port for over a year), another agreement with CEMEX to cancel their contract and already had a list of funding possibilities.

What did we get out of the study? Nice photos for the daily newspaper and blah, blah, blah.

Here is the City’s Press Release:

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward today announced his plans for the Port of Pensacola’s future, including a focus on the high-tech offshore service industry.

“The Port of Pensacola has suffered for decades because of competitive disadvantages,” Hayward said. “There are those who feel the time has come to close the Port and sell the land to the highest bidder. Others feel we should invest in marketing the port and improving its facilities. One thing is clear – the status quo is no longer sustainable.”

Hayward said his administration would re-examine leases with Cemex and other firms storing aggregate material at the Port.

“Aggregate storage is incompatible with our adjacent downtown and historic districts,” Hayward said. “We’re going to support the expansion of high-tech offshore service industry at the Port. This sector has a lesser impact on the Port’s neighbors and has considerable private-sector growth potential. The Port may never be an enterprise which puts millions into the City treasury, but what it can be is an engine for economic growth and private-sector job creation. It’s time to pursue new industry and capitalize on the opportunities those industries offer.”

Hayward thanked the members of his Port Advisory Committee, a panel of business leaders which he formed last year to examine Port operations and make policy recommendations. Hayward said he had carefully studied and considered the committee’s report when developing a policy.

“I pledged in my 20 Solutions for 2011 to take action on the Port of Pensacola,” Hayward said. “This plan will begin to transition the Port from an aggregate and cement-driven enterprise to a Port that’s better suited for our waterfront and better positioned to cater to sectors with high job growth.”

To support future growth at the Port, Hayward said his staff would begin identifying sources for funding port improvements, including state and federal grant opportunities as well as looking at available economic development funds stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Hayward also announced his intention to work with the City Council to adopt policies allowing Port staff to expedite decision-making by executing tariffs, contracts, and lease agreements with mayoral approval. While many other ports can execute contracts quickly, contracts for the Port of Pensacola require a vote by the City Council.

“I believe these changes provide a clear direction for the Port,” Hayward said. “We can create the opportunity for sustainable, private-sector job growth and make Pensacola a viable, competitive port option for 21st-century industries.”