Increasingly, the Port of Palm Beach is being recognized as an economic engine in the county. But one that can also be revved up a lot more.
Indeed, both candidates in the Aug. 28 race to fill the Group 5 seat on the port commission — Joseph Anderson, operations manager for the city of Palm Beach Gardens; and Scott Holtz, a West Palm Beach attorney — believe the state’s fourth-biggest container port has room to expand its business and be a force for job creation.
But The Post endorses Holtz, 33, for the Group 5 seat for his broader vision of the 162-acre port’s potential.
For example, while both candidates agree that the port should work with Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach to help revitalize the “Broadway Corridor” to stimulate job creation, Holtz suggests extending that reach to the Glades by working with existing tenants on a job fair in that depressed region. Holtz said he plans to work with any employers associated with the port about creating a Jobs and Opportunities Task Force to carry out such initiatives.
Again, both favor maintenance dredging over widening of the entrance channel to allow larger container ships to use the port.
Anderson, 47, is correct when he says, “We are not JaxPort, Port Everglades, Tampa or PortMiami.” But Holtz offers that Port of Palm Beach can feed off those larger ports. Our port, he says, can maximize business in small- and medium-sized container shipping with more “roll-on, roll-off” shipping of tractors, trucks, semi-trailer trucks and trailers.
Holtz said he would like to see more cruising at the port, but Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s two ships — the Grand Classica and the Grand Celebration — are enough when it comes to bigger ships. “I would really like to see us lure a higher-end cruise line with smaller ships to take advantage of our proximity to Palm Beach, and a 15-minute drive from Palm Beach International Airport,” he told The Post Editorial Board.
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As for climate change and sea-level rise, Holtz does view it as a legitimate threat that requires a coordinated agency response, but also as a business opportunity. Annually, nearly $5.5 billion in goods such as sugar and molasses produced in western Palm Beach County — as well as telephone poles, building materials, consumer goods and tractors — move through the port.
“But demand for fresh water will help drive the creation of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, cutting into all that agricultural production,” Holtz said. “The port needs to prepare for this, and insulate itself with long-term thinking about growing imports.”
Read all of The Post’s endorsements online at www.MyPalmBeachPost.com/2018-endorsements.