President Obama's trip to Tampa tomorrow highlights the importance of the Port of Tampa in our community, our commitment to creating jobs, our local small businesses tied to international trade, and the vital role travel and tourism play in our economy, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said.
"The Port of Tampa supports thousands and thousands of jobs in our region," Castor said. "Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has been focused on job creation, and we have worked to boost the economic recovery and bolster the port with investments in infrastructure, business opportunities and good policy decisions. We have had some great success stories in the Tampa area, and the President's visit underscores the importance of a continued focus on new jobs and growing businesses."
Many businesses throughout the Tampa Bay area have benefitted from investments and business opportunities, and representatives from several of these companies will be among Castor's guests at tomorrow's event.
"We're very happy the President is here in Tampa Bay," said Philip K. Bell, director of external communications and public affairs at Gerdau, a Brazilian steel company whose North American offices are in Tampa. "International trade has become an increasingly important component of our business. Our proximity to the Panama Canal and the goods and equipment that are brought in to the Port of Tampa are very important to the local economy and our business. The importance of infrastructure is underscored by projects such as the I-4 connector, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the state. Our company's steel is being used in the project, which will promote growth in the region."
Castor successfully advocated for significant small shipyard grants at the Port. She also has helped direct money to the Port for dredging, which leads to increased trade capacity. Castor also successfully pushed for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money to be directed to the Crosstown Connector project. The Crosstown Connector links the Port to Interstate-4 and is one of the largest Recovery Act projects in the country.
"The Crosstown Connector project is creating jobs and will lead to businesses being more productive because they won't have to fight traffic congestion on the way from the Interstate to the Port," Castor said.
Castor also has been a strong supporter of trade and tourism issues relating to Brazil due to the growing economic power of Brazilian visitors to Florida and business investments. Not only is Brazil one of the Port of Tampa's main trading partners, but Brazilians are frequent visitors and account for a large amount of the local tourism. Castor supports supporting the inclusion of Brazil into the Visa Waiver Program, which would encourage more tourism from those countries.
"Many companies in our community are successful because of growing international trade, infrastructure investments, and travel and tourism," Castor said. "We are working to make sure even more businesses can benefit from a thriving Port. Expanded trade opportunities would be a boon."
"At Busch Gardens we know that travel and tourism equals jobs," said Jim Atchison, SeaWorld Parks president and chief executive. "Tourists come from all over the world to visit our parks. Brazilian tourists in particular are visiting more, staying in our hotels and spending money in our communities. Making it easier for tourists to visit here is important. To accommodate more visitors from Brazil in a more timely and less expensive manner, we would like to see the United States government reduce visa interview times. We hope to see this goal accomplished with the opening of additional consular offices, hiring of more consular staff and other improvements in visa processing efficiencies."
Every $1 invested in seaports has a $6.90 impact on the state's economy, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.
"To boost our economic recovery and create jobs, we must play to our strengths," Castor said. "Supporting our port and the companies -- large and small -- that do business at the port is a surefire way to create jobs and put our economy back on track."