Inland port not dead, but Port of Palm Beach wants project in the county

The Port of Palm Beach in Riviera Beach is shown here.

Remember the inland port? If you thought the much-touted idea that promised thousands of jobs  was dead, think again.

The proposal for a cargo distribution center dubbed an  “inland port” in Palm Beach County received lot of attention for years, and the Port of Palm Beach spent roughly $1 million on the proposal.

An 850-acre site owned by Florida Crystals Corp. was to be a distribution center to transfer cargo that would be an economic engine for the job-poor Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay areas. That hasn’t happened.

Now the players and locations have shifted  outside of Palm Beach County,  and the port staff and executive director should be allowed to offer support and advice,   the port’s director of planning Carl Baker told the port commission Wednesday.

Martin County, which is in the port’s foreign trade zone,  is working to develop an inland port on 100 acres in Indiantown. That project is being led by Martin County Commissioner Ed Fielding, Baker said.

West of Palm Beach County, the Airglades International Airport management team has submitted a proposal to the Hendry County Board of Commissioners. It’s looking to develop the airport west of Clewiston into a cold storage receiving area for perishable  fruits and flowers from Colombia and other countries.

Fred Ford, CEO and president of Airglades International Airport,  said Thursday that plans call for the operation to initially receive 10 flights a day of  perishable cargo such as seafood from Chile and Peru. The products would then be trucked to their destinations.

“Eighty percent of the perishable cargo comes into Miami,” Ford said.

The perishables industry is running out of space in Miami, and there’s a lot of traffic congestion when trucks leave there. Transporting products from Clewiston instead  of Miami would cut 200 miles off each round trip, Ford said.

The Hendry County project is going through the due diligence and approval process, and site preparation is expected to begin in 2018, Ford said. The air cargo operation and other businesses which are indicated they are considering relocating could result in about 1,000 jobs.

All five port commissioners said Wednesday that they prefer to support inland port development efforts in Palm Beach County, especially when jobs are needed in the Glades.

“We are all for an inland port, no matter who does it,” Commission Chairman Blair Ciklin said. “We would love to see it stay in Palm Beach County.”

“Our days of leading the charge are over. We are just sitting back and helping anyone willing to do something,” Ciklin said. “We put in a million bucks of our money hoping something would happen out there. To this day, we are still hoping.”

Commissioner Katherine Waldron said that while she was in Tallahassee recently, she met with mayors of the Glades communities who said they are very interested in having the project there.

Waldron said there’s an opportunity to push the project to the Glades and it would be a shame not to do that.

Commissioner Wayne Richards agreed, saying, “If the port is assisting, damn it, it had better be for the Glades.”

Commissioners asked about the status of the project Florida Crystals had proposed and the port selected in 2009.

“Florida Crystals isn’t answering their phone or their emails,” Baker said.

Florida Crystals’ spokeswoman Marianne Martinez told the Palm Beach Post Friday, “We continue to monitor the cargo volume in South Florida to see when the demand might be right for an Inland Logistics Center in Palm Beach County.  Because the Panama Canal project has not proceeded on its original timeline, the demand has not yet presented itself locally.”

 

 

 

 

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