Port Panama City and paper mill work together for expansion

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Port Panama City is spending several million dollars to expand and it's working with the WestRock paper mill to do it.

Late last week officials from both industries met to seal the deal. They anticipate the project could create about 60 direct jobs and about 130 indirect jobs.

"We're just looking forward to some good times ahead," Port Executive Director Wayne Stubbs said.

The port is buying 42 acres of land, a dock, and thousands of acres of square footage in warehouse space.

"That's gonna be the first project is the new forest products terminal," Stubbs said. "It's really the first break-bulk forest products terminal that's been built in this country in almost 30 years. It really puts us in a strong position."

With some dredging planned, Stubbs said they'll expand the port's capacity by about 250 thousand tons.

"We think that we're going to be able to attract other new shippers to the port of Panama City so it's not really a spillover or overflow," he said. "It's really a whole new beach edge for the port to keep growing."

Stubbs believes they should look into auto parts as part of the port's expansion into new markets. He said this deal will also help to bolster their tenants, Oceaneering and Berg Steel Pipe.

The port is spending about $13.6 million on the expansion, and has the opportunity to buy more land near the mill over the next several years.

The leaders of this deal say it appears to come full circle. That's because the port was originally founded at the site that now houses the paper mill.

So what's in it for the mill?

Stubbs said the deal will make the mill's port public and help its entire facility to modernize and expand.

"It's pretty much new business," Stubbs said. "It's their business expanding and being preserved. I mean, without this project there is some question of whether the ships will continue to call that dock, so you know, preserving the existing business over there is a very important thing to do."

The mill's leaders hope this will increase their exports as well.

"When you look at it today it's a partnership, a business transaction," mill General Manager Tommy Martin said. "In the days to come people will view it as a historic event, something that really has sustainable long lasting impact, positive impact on this region."

Stubbs said there are no immediate plans to include cruise ship capabilities in the expansion.


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