TAMPA — A new economic impact study shows that the Port of Tampa emerged from the downturn stronger than ever.
In 2012, the port generated $15.1 billion in economic activity for the Tampa Bay region and the state. That's nearly double the $8 billion economic impact of the port in 2005.
The new study, released Monday, said the Port of Tampa directly and indirectly supports about 80,216 jobs. Total port-related wages and salaries were valued at a combined $4.2 billion.
"The Port of Tampa impacts virtually every aspect of our daily lives," said port CEO Paul Anderson. "How we eat and how we sleep. Every aspect of our lives is touched in this community through the port. It is the economic foundation of this community."
The study surveyed personal income, business revenue and tax receipts linked to the port and port-related business and economic activities. Both the 2005 and 2012 studies were conducted by Martin Associates and used the same methodologies, officials said.
The new study also highlights the so-called "jobless recovery." The port was directly responsible for 14,081 jobs in 2005, according to the old study. The new study said that number fell to 11,573 jobs in 2012. That's a loss of 2,508 port jobs, or 18 percent, over a seven-year period. Those numbers, however, don't reflect recently reported job growth in Florida this year.
John Martin, the president of the firm that produced the report, compared the port's growing economic impact to the stock market: Companies are improving their overall value without expending resources. Greater efficiency means fewer workers at lower salaries.
Anderson said the port community was fortunate that the job loss wasn't greater. The port's diversity — it handles phosphates, fuel, cruise ship passengers and a growing smattering of cargo containers — helped it weather an economic storm that could have been much worse.
"We did a good job of retaining a huge portion of the jobs we have," Anderson said. "This is perfect common sense. We went through a very difficult time. Companies cut back on their jobs and their hiring. They optimized their operations. They streamlined. They used technology. All of the companies in our port community did what they had to do.
"Every industry, every business cut back. The good news is we did more (with less), the value-added prospects of these companies went up."
Anderson believes the port is well placed to add new businesses, new industries and thus new jobs as the recovery continues. This year the port added cargo service by Mediterranean Shipping Co., or MSC, that it hopes will boost its international cargo container business. The port is also benefiting from tens of millions of dollars in rail and road improvements that will speed the unloading of fuel and cargo from the docks.
The port hopes it can grab more cargo from Latin America and more cars made in Mexico. Anderson also wants Tampa to be the cargo gateway to the vast Central Florida market. And he believes there will also be opportunities for the Port of Tampa to lure manufacturing plants and distribution centers to the area.
"America, I think, is going to go through a period of renaissance in manufacturing," Anderson said. "Companies may want to come here and utilize our workforce, and the land we have at the port. I think the whole state has an opportunity to do more manufacturing."
Jamal Thalji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3404.