Gov. Scott readies first trade mission
Gov. Rick Scott will leave Thursday for his first foreign trade mission since being elected, a two-day trip to Panama.
A delegation of port officials, businessmen and Florida Chamber of Commerce representatives will head to Panama on Wednesday and Scott will join them a day later.
The trip is expected to cost about $27,000, Scott's spokesman Brian Hughes said. Taxpayers will pay for about $5,000 while the remaining expenses will be covered by private donations to Enterprise Florida, the spokesman said.
The two-day trip comes as Scott attempts to focus the state's attention on ports as a major jobs creator. When he derailed the $3 billion, shovel-ready high-speed rail project, Scott asked the federal government to instead spend the money on digging deeper ports.
The rail project was estimated to create 24,000 jobs. Scott says the state's project to dredge the Miami port will create 30,000 jobs.
Panama comes into play because of its canal. A widening of the Panama Canal will give the world's largest container ships easier access to the East Coast. Scott has also made trade with Central and South America a top priority.
"This trip is to highlight and even learn more about the opportunity with the Panama Canal and the opportunity that shippers have in our state and our ports have to make sure we are, hopefully, the shipping capital for all of the United States," Scott said.
Here's the tentative delegation: Scott; Hughes; Carrie O'Rourke, Scott's deputy chief of staff; Dean Petrone, Scott's special assistant; Doug Wheeler, Florida Ports Council president; Phillip Allen, Port Everglades director; Manny Almira, Port of Palm Beach director; Alan Paul Anderson, Jacksonville Port CEO; Herbert "Bill" Johnson, Port of Miami director; Richard Wainio, Tampa Port director; Steve Tyndal, Manatee Port Authority deputy director; Barney Bishop, Associated Industries of Florida; Dale Brill, Florida Chamber Foundation president; Hal Melton, Ivan Barrios, Juliana Pena and Manny Mencia, Enterprise Florida; Todd Gates, GATES Inc. chairman; Charles Cobb, Cobb Partners CEO; Mark Morton, Lykes Land Investments, Inc.; Jose Perez-Jones, Seaboard Marine, Ltd.; and Alfredo Stimac, Metal Essence, Inc. president.