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Port Canaveral CEO: New cargo yard will benefit Orlando immediately

A pleasure craft makes it way out the main channel, past commercial and cargo ships, toward open ocean at Port Canaveral.
A pleasure craft makes it way out the main channel, past commercial and cargo ships, toward open ocean at Port Canaveral. (Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel)

Port Canaveral next month will open its first container site, a $100 million, 40-acre yard that will for the first time allow the port to bring in and ship out consumer goods.

The addition will give Orlando and the rest of Central Florida cheaper food, clothing, consumer electronics and other merchandise, said John Walsh, port director and chief executive of the Canaveral Port Authority. The new cargo yard will also spur area growth in the form of new warehouses, more local trucking and hiring to support the logistical expansion, he said.

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The economic impact will be about $1 billion over the first year and that will continue to grow to $10 billion annually over the next five years, Walsh estimated. About 50 percent of the impact would be felt by Orlando "because that's where the consumer base is, and those are the people who will benefit from the lower cost of shipping goods," according to Walsh.

Walsh sees see immediate benefits from the new cargo yard. The facility will create 500 jobs at the port itself. Areawide, including Orlando, it would mean 5,000 related jobs over the next five years, he said. These jobs will be in materials handling, truck driving, technology, robotic systems for warehouses and more.

Until now, the port has only handled materials such as fuel and rock that are imported in bulk.

Under that system, consumer goods come in from thousands of miles away, are trucked to warehouses in places like Georgia and then to Central Florida. "So by having a seaport that can efficiently bring in consumer materials it makes sense to build more distribution warehouses and add more people," Walsh said.

"The port was mostly for tourism in the past and this will add an extra component," said Elizabeth Krekel, coordinator of the Central Florida International Trade Office. "Now there will be a cheaper way to ship goods because there will be closer access. Currently, a lot of people use Jacksonville and Port Everglades."

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