The Board of Canaveral Port Authority unanimously elected Thomas “Tom” Weinberg chairman for 2013. Weinberg resides in Cocoa Beach and is the former chief of staff for past State Sen. Mel Martinez. Last year, Port Canaveral shattered previous records – including being up 21 percent for multi-day passengers – positioning it as the fastest growing cruise port in Florida and No. 2 in the world.
The transition to cargo as well as cruise: We recognize that Florida has many deep-water ports and the competition is fierce. As such, we have developed an aggressive strategy to take advantage of an improving economy.
We have allocated $42 million to build two new cargo piers, which are presently under construction and will be open this year. The Port will spend another $32 million to widen and deepen the main shipping channel to accommodate larger cargo and cruise vessels. Additionally, in February, we outlined the challenges and advantages of building our cargo business during a Commissioner workshop. That exercise is really helping us develop a strategy to expand cargo opportunities.
How his background serves him: Having been on both sides, as a government administrator and now as an elected official, I understand the crucial roles both play in good government. Board members must be the policy makers and visionaries, while allowing executive staff to do the day-to-day work to turn those visions into reality. Also, we must always be cognizant that we are public servants, include the public as much as possible in major decisions, and strive to do what’s best for the Port and our community.
The impact of the new $21 million, 22,000-sq.ft. visitor center: The Cove, a 40-acre site in the heart of the port development, could add up to a half-million square feet of leasable office, restaurant and retail space, providing an array of opportunities for new businesses to open in an exciting environment. The visitor center is just part of an extensive, multi-phase development of The Cove. It will feature indoor and outdoor observation decks, exhibit space on four floors, event venues, an auditorium, gift shop and café. To the west of the center, plans could include a linear greenway, surrounded by retail and dining venues. To the east of the center there will be a 5,000-seat amphitheatre for outdoor entertainment events by fall of 2013.
We also will have taken steps to protect the unique aspects of the commercial and recreational fishing interests ensuring the Port can maintain its unique “old Florida” ambiance. All this is designed to bring more people — locals and tourists — to the Port.
Looking ahead: What excites me most is the prospect of growing our cargo, real estate and tourism business segments to match our success in cruise business. In five years, I hope to see Port Canaveral with a healthy mix of cruise, cargo and tourism business.