Fernandina Beach, FL, April 03, 2019 --(PR.com
)-- Calling it the "crown jewel for exporting northeast Florida timber and other products to China and the rest of the world," U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross praised the Port of Fernandina's value to area businesses during a visit here last Friday, March 27.
Secretary Ross spoke to a crowd of area business leaders and elected officials including U.S. Congressman John Rutherford at the port.
He explained how recently created Opportunity Zones are supporting new and small Florida businesses and how they are attracting investors to grow local economies and strengthen their workforces, singling out Rayonier -- the world's fourth largest timber operator -- and its new headquarters facility in nearby Yulee, FL as an example.
He recognized Rayonier's continuing investments in Nassau County, Florida saying that its "business investment in this region will lead to more jobs, more cost-affordable housing for workers, and more commerce moving through opportunity zones," adding "the port of Fernandina is finding creative ways to remain competitive in this global commerce equation."
The secretary said the Port of Fernandina was taking advantage of its proximity to the big ports up and down the Southeast coast, and its access to exporters located in the region. "The port here in Fernandina is creatively spearheading a model of providing new and efficient services that relieve the burden on our already overtaxed infrastructure."
A resident of Florida, Secretary Ross said "as trade volumes continue to grow the U.S. government wants to make sure that full containers coming into our ports are not leaving empty. "We want our producers of timber, paper, cars, steel, electronics, chemicals consumer goods, textiles and apparels, food and every product -- to be filling those containers with high-value added goods that are made by Americans in America."
He said Florida has experienced an "economic rebirth" and now has a GDP that exceeds $1 trillion. He added that if Florida was a country it would have the 17th largest economy in the world and that the state is the top travel destination in the world, attracting 128 million out-of-state visitors in 2018, its 8th consecutive record setting year.
During his visit Secretary Ross toured the port facility hosted by the Ocean Highway and Port Authority of Nassau County and Aldebaran Partners, an independent global corporate advisory firm.
He was briefed on recent and planned enhancements to the port by Port Director Laura DiBella, including the installation in January of the towering Liebherr Mobile Harbor Crane that enables port employees to move cargo more efficiently, improve vessel turnaround and serve more ships, faster and safer.
It was also announced in February that Worldwide Terminals Fernandina LLC -- which assumed the role of port operator in early 2018 when it purchased Nassau Terminals LLC – is launching a new monthly vessel service at the Port of Fernandina with SDW Shipping, a private Netherlands company, significantly strengthening the port's connections with Europe, Central and South America.
According to Christopher Ragucci, CEO of Worldwide Terminals Fernandina, modernization of the port is continuing with plans for capital investments of $15 million for additional cranes, cargo handling equipment, on-dock warehousing, and more.
"The visit by Secretary Ross is testimony to the growing strategic role the Port of Fernandina plays due to its location in the burgeoning Southeast and the excellent connections to the U.S. mainland it offers to a global network of vessels and customers," says Ragucci.
The Port of Fernandina is a rail-served, natural deep water port on the Atlantic seaboard, just 2.2 miles from the open ocean. It handles a variety of cargoes, including steel, aluminum, machinery, paper and forest products and consumer goods. It has 250,000 square-feet of on-site warehouse space, 100,000+ square-feet off-port, and 10 acres of open storage, all which sits minutes away from a new six-lane A1A/SR 200 highway enabling easy access to both Interstates 95 and 10. The Port of Fernandina supports more than 55 direct jobs and hundreds of indirect jobs throughout Nassau County and contributes greatly to the local economy. The Port of Fernandina handled over 290,000 tons of cargo last year and is on course to double this amount in 2019. www.portoffernandina.org.
For Additional Information Contact:
Laura DiBella, Port Director, 561/756-3132, Laura@NassauFlorida.com
Chris Ragucci, Worldwide Terminals, 904/990-1400, firstname.lastname@example.org