TAMPA — Cargo is the lifeblood of a port. It's Tampa Port Authority chief executive officer Paul Anderson's job to bring more of it to his.
The Port of Tampa unveiled a new brand with a familiar name Wednesday to do just that:
Port Tampa Bay.
"As our mayor is fond of saying, 'We are all Tampa Bay' and should be collaboratively presenting our region as the finest in the country for living and doing business," said Anderson, borrowing a line from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
Anderson was brought on board last year to invigorate the port's marketing efforts and bring in more lucrative goods like cargo containers and vehicles to a port that traditionally handles bulk cargoes like fuel and phosphates.
Thus the name change. In one sense, it's obvious that the $15.1 billion economic impact and 80,200 jobs generated annually by the port are felt across the Tampa Bay area and beyond.
In another sense, Anderson believes the new name is a better sell.
After all, what sounds better to a potential client: a port that serves a city of 347,000 people in the city of Tampa or a port that serves the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater region of 2.84 million, one of the largest metro areas in the United States?
"Our port has to change these long-standing perceptions that these (maritime) decisionmakers have typically had of our port," Anderson said. "But the truth is for many of these companies that the Tampa Bay region represents a new, better alternative in the supply chain.
"Our job is to show them."
Anderson wants to position Port Tampa Bay as the closest full-service U.S. port to the expanded Panama Canal and the booming economies of Latin America. The new brand was unveiled with a video showing Hillsborough business leaders pitching the bay area to potential clients — but it did not include any Pinellas leaders.
Marketing the Tampa Bay region as a whole is an approach the bay area's other economic development leaders have taken to heart. When Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano pitches his airport to airlines, he's selling something even bigger: the 3.5 million people who live within an hour's drive of the airport, from Hernando to Sarasota counties.
Port Tampa Bay joins a growing list of regional brands that identify themselves not by the cities of Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa or by the counties of Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco or Pinellas, but by the region's geographical trademark: They include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Tampa Bay Partnership, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, the Tampa Bay Times and Tampa Bay Water.
Tampa Bay Water, however, is still the only regional governing authority in the bay area. And though the name of the port changed, the name of the Tampa Port Authority did not. It is still a Hillsborough County agency that collects taxes there.
The name change also reflects a new leadership role that Anderson wants Port Tampa Bay to take with much smaller regional ports like the Port of St. Petersburg and Port Citrus. Neither are cargo ports, but both recently signed agreements to work closely with the Tampa Port Authority. Anderson said his port could provide them with the expertise and help they need if they ever grow their operations.
Port Tampa Bay's relationship with its nearest competing cargo port, Port Manatee, is a different story. In October, Manatee's board pre-emptively voted to oppose any potential merger with Tampa. Anderson said Wednesday that he's committed to working more closely with all nearby ports, including Manatee.
Anderson believes the port is well positioned to take advantage of the new brand: Last year the port signed development deals to build the facilities needed to handle new cargoes like Mexican-made cars if companies choose to bring those goods into the U.S. through Port Tampa Bay.
The next step: getting companies to do just that.
"It's a breath of fresh air, it's a burst of new energy," port chairman Stephen Swindal said of the new brand. "But now we need to make sure some of these plans come to fruition."
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jamal Thalji can be reached at (813) 226-3404, [email protected] or @jthalji on Twitter.