For more than 150 years, wide-eyed fortune seekers have been coming to California seeking easy pickings.

So now here comes Florida Gov. Rick Scott leading a “trade delegation” to entice the international trade and logistics industry to uproot and return with him to the Sunshine State.

The governor doesn’t really want the cargo, of course. What he wants are the tens of thousands of jobs and economic benefits in California that are associated with moving, tracking, storing and distributing goods – everything from lawn chairs to clothing to big-screen televisions.

In his excitement to strike out for California, the governor has put the proverbial “cart before the horse.” In short, he wants the cart, but doesn’t have a horse to pull it.

Florida doesn’t have anywhere near the demand, proximity to markets or infrastructure needed to support major port operations even remotely close to California’s port complexes.

In fact, Florida’s share of the U.S. container market “underperformed … compared to other U.S. Ports,” according to a new report by the Florida Ports Council.

To turn the tide and become a player in international trade, the report says, Florida needs to develop the necessary infrastructure for “growth and connectivity” – and it needs to attract import distribution centers, improve transportation and streamline its regulatory processes to make the state competitive.

The ports’ report recommends aggressively marketing Florida to cargo owners and shipping lines – but presumably the intent was to market the state after making the investments and changes needed to be competitive.

So I think Scott’s visit to California is premature, but still it’s a good thing. He’ll see exactly what it takes to build and maintain a world-class logistics system.

The first thing he’ll see is just how much money it takes – “real” money as we say in California. Not the hundreds of millions of dollars as called out in the ports’ report, but billions of dollars – and the need to meet ever-higher environmental standards.

California has individual ports that have invested more than all Florida ports combined in recent years.

California ports offer superior and direct access to U.S. markets via approximately 100 trains a day on two Class 1 railroads (Union Pacific and BNSF), container cranes and dredged channels that can accommodate the largest vessels in operation, and 1.8 billion square feet of warehouse-distribution centers within a short drive of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. 

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