PALMETTO, Florida – Port Manatee is being looked at as a gateway linking Poland and all of Central and Eastern Europe with the entire Western Hemisphere following a visit Thursday [April 19] to the Florida Gulf Coast port by the president of the Polish-American Chamber of Commerce of Florida and the Americas.
“We can establish a bridge,” said Leszek Ladowski, president of the Miami-based Polish trade organization. “It’s not just about the 21 million people who live in Florida. It’s about all the connections in Latin America and throughout the Americas.
“Port Manatee has a great location to be the gateway,” Ladowski said. “The opportunity is there. How big it becomes is up to us.”
Ladowski, who lived in Latin America for 14 years, said Poland, as the leading free-market economy of the 12-country Central and Eastern Europe region, has been increasing its trade with the United States at an annual pace of more than 20 percent and is eager to pursue solid commercial links throughout the Americas.
Vanessa Baugh, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority, said she shares the enthusiasm, commenting, “Serving as a channel for commerce is at the heart of the mission of Port Manatee, and we are encouraged by the potential the port holds as an important tie between Central and Eastern Europe and the Americas, benefitting interests throughout the world while boosting contributions to our region’s socioeconomic wellbeing as well.”
Port Manatee’s executive director, Carlos Buqueras, said, “Port Manatee continues to attract the interest of leaders of commerce around the globe, with the International Trade Hub at Port Manatee leading the way in realizing our vast potential to offer and capitalize upon mutually beneficial opportunities.”
In the past several months, Port Manatee and its trade hub have also hosted high-level officials representing such nations as Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Peru and Spain.
Located “Where Tampa Bay Meets the Gulf of Mexico,” Port Manatee is the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal, with 10 40-foot-draft berths serving container, bulk, breakbulk, heavylift, project and general cargo customers. The port generates more than $2.3 billion in annual economic impact for the local community, while supporting more than 24,000 jobs, without levying ad-valorem taxes.