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  1. Business

Port Tampa Bay closes deal to move flour mill out of downtown Tampa

TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay on Tuesday approved a long-term lease to move Ardent Mills' flour mill from downtown Tampa to 10 acres at Port Redwing.

Ardent Mills agreed to move the flour mill out of downtown by 2021 when it sold its property north of Amalie Arena to the developers of the 53-acre Water Street Tampa project. The move to the port's property near Apollo Beach is expected to bring 35 permanent jobs and create the opportunity for an expansion of the mill's already significant operations.

"They have decided to increase their tonnage and through-put by using Redwing," Port Tampa Bay president and CEO Paul Anderson said in a recent interview. The 40-year lease, which has options to extend the term to 80 years, includes a guarantee that Ardent Mills will move at least 450,000 tons of flour a year through the mill, with at least 100,000 tons being shipped by sea. "We will see a significant increase in rail, waterborne and truck traffic at Port Redwing."

THE DEAL: Water Street Tampa developers buy ConAgra flour mill for future expansion of their $3 billion project

The mill also will help the port further diversify its operations, which include a growing container business, a million cruise-ship passengers a year and a new cold-storage warehouse that has begun to revive Tampa's reputation as an inbound port for Latin American produce like bananas and pineapples.

"We're not doing just one or two cargoes," Anderson said. "We're doing multi-faceted moves of cargo. We're doing private equity deals like we did on the refrigerated warehouse. We're not just running a container port. We're not just running a cruise port. It's what makes this so exciting."

Ardent Mills, a joint venture between ConAgra and two other agri-business companies, will have 12 months rent-free to perform its due diligence, get permits and design its facility. During a construction period of up to 18 months, its rent will be $125,000 a year.

Once the mill goes into operation, the rent will start at $240,000 a year, indexed to the consumer price index. After 20 years, the rent will be updated to reflect market conditions.

The existing 80,000-square-foot mill on S Nebraska Avenue was built in 1938 and grinds wheat around the clock. It ships 1.5 million pounds of flour a day to bakeries across Florida, the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean. Before agreeing to move to the port, Ardent Mills explored several alternative sites, most of them in or near Tampa.

"It's very important that they stay here with us," newly appointed port commissioner Hung Mai said before the vote. "They could go, you know, somewhere else."

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Contact Richard Danielson at or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times