The Port of Tampa is not only a major Florida gateway for petroleum imports, but it will soon be the state's only oil recycler, as well.
After two years of negotiating and planning, oil processing company NexLube signed a 20-year lease on Wednesday with the Tampa Port Authority for an $80 million oil recycling plant, the first of its kind in Florida.
"It's a great fit in Tampa," said port director Richard Wainio, who announced Wednesday that he is stepping down . "The single biggest commodity we handle is energy products. I couldn't be more pleased."
Construction on the plant, which will process 24 million gallons of used oil a year for use in lubricants, diesel and asphalt, will begin in two weeks. It is expected to generate about $10 million in revenues for the Port Authority throughout the term of the lease.
Port officials said hundreds of jobs will be created during the 18-month construction phase. NexLube has also promised to create about 75 full-time jobs with an average salary of $60,000, Wainio said during a news conference Wednesday.
Monte Bell, president of NexLube, said the company picked the Port of Tampa for its access to waterways, highways and railways.
"We're very excited about the project," Bell said. "The support we've received through the Port Authority and the county have been really strong."
On Wednesday, Hillsborough County commissioners voted 6-0, with Commissioner Al Higginbotham absent, to grant NexLube a seven-year partial exemption on its property taxes. Starting in 2015, the 75 percent exemption is expected to cost the county $484,725 a year in tax revenues for seven years.
The company will also receive about $630,000 from the state, Bell said.
Rick Homans, CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., called the new plant a "classic economic development story" in partnership with the state and county governments and local economic development branches.
"The greatest thing is it's new, clean, green technology and it's really going to make a difference," he said. "It's a real win for Tampa and the port."