TAMPA — Cars made in Mexico. Sugar grown in Chile. Timber harvested in Brazil and Peru. Consumer goods produced in Asia and shipped across the Panama Canal.
The Tampa Port Authority's new leader, Paul Anderson, imagines the future and sees these new cargoes and more being shipped in from all over and unloaded at the Port of Tampa's docks — producing jobs and wealth for the maritime community and the Tampa Bay region.
As the port's new CEO, it falls on him to make that future happen.
"My job is to be an economic developer," Anderson said.
Anderson, 53, has spent three decades running ports, marketing car dealerships and navigating politics. His resume and contacts are why Tampa's governing board voted in November to offer him its top job. He comes from the Port of Jacksonville, which he ran for 22 months.
Anderson and port board chairman William "Hoe" Brown agreed last month on a three-year contract that will pay $350,000 a year. That allowed Anderson to remain Florida's highest-paid port CEO.
Technically, his first day was Thursday. But his first board meeting, his first public appearance, was Tuesday morning.
Anderson, and the Port of Tampa, got off to a productive start.
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The board — down from seven to four commissioners Tuesday — voted to approve two key ventures that they hope will make the port much easier for the new CEO to market.
The board approved a three-year incentive agreement with Mediterranean Shipping Co. to bring the world's second-largest shipping container line to the Port of Tampa.
MSC, a Swiss company, will join the Israeli company that already brings container service to Tampa, Zim Integrated Shipping Services. MSC will connect Tampa directly to its Caribbean hub, Caucedo in the Dominican Republic. That will link Tampa to MSC's worldwide shipping network, which stretches across Latin America to the Middle East and through the Suez Canal.
Officials hope exporters and importers will start using Tampa to deliver and send out their cargo containers. It's an important and lucrative cargo sector of which Tampa has virtually no market share — just 40,000 containers in 2011, compared with Miami's 900,000 that same year.
Ports of America, which runs Tampa's shipping terminals, spent six years making the deal happen. The authority's deal gives MSC steeper discounts on fees as more containers come in.
"Having MSC join our other partner, Zim, is a game-changer for this port," Anderson said. "When MSC gets into a market, they are extremely aggressive. They are proactive. We are excited about them working with our team to grow this business."
The board then blessed Anderson's first proposal as Tampa's CEO: $50,000 to start advertising the new container service at some upcoming trade shows.
"This is something I think we need to react very quickly to," Anderson said.
The port board also approved the next two phases of a $54 million project to modernize the 45-year-old liquid bulk terminals at the REK Pier. Work should be done in 2014. The port said it handles 40 percent of the petroleum entering the Tampa Bay and Central Florida regions.
In September, the port unveiled its new $11 million Tampa Gateway Rail terminal, a 2-mile rail loop that allows liquid-bearing trains and ships to quickly unload their products.
The completion of both projects would give the Port of Tampa state-of-the-art facilities to distribute liquids by sea and by land. "I like the way the stars are aligning for growth," Anderson said.
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Anderson's official title is CEO. But his real job is to sell the Port of Tampa to the world.
He said his first sales job will be to sell companies on the new MSC route to Tampa. That will take more marketing staff and marketing dollars, he said, and a rebranding of the port.
"I don't want to just buy one ad," Anderson said. "We're eventually going to come up with a little bit of a branding campaign for the new service. We want to drive our brand and create a very visible brand for the cargo owners, for the logistics providers, the decisionmakers."
That's the kind of marketing savvy and salesmanship that Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the port's new CEO needs to grow business at the Port of Tampa.
"Make no mistake," the mayor said, "it's about more than just running ships in and out of the port."
Jamal Thalji can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3404.