The Port of Pensacola isn't going anywhere — and we can make it better

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Reports of the death of the Port of Pensacola have been greatly exaggerated. It has, however, been underutilized. It has not even gotten close to realizing its full potential in this modern era — to say nothing of keeping up with the momentum of downtown Pensacola itself. And it has, perhaps most strangely, become some sort of nostalgic crutch used for political purposes. To be for or against the port is to be for or against Pensacola in totality, according to some.

To be clear: The Port of Pensacola is not going anywhere, and it should not go anywhere. It should not be razed and replaced by waterfront restaurants. It should not be leveled in lieu of luxurious bayfront condos. Pensacola needs its Port. And it will keep its Port.

The Port of Pensacola must, however, catch up with the times. And these times demand a better utilization of the land on which the Port sits. These times demand a more modern, cleaner use than crushing stone. And these times demand that the Port multiply the jobs it supports today.

  • The Port of Pensacola needs a proper long-term plan. Not just 10 years. It needs a generation-level plan.

  • The Port of Pensacola needs to create and support more jobs than it does today.

  • Research and commercial interests can live alongside a smarter use of the existing space.

These times also demand better than the preliminary results of a recent study that is making its way through the system. And the Port of Pensacola cannot continue to limp along with one short-term deal after another. An unacceptable 10-year-lease is just kicking the can down the road.

A port with as storied a history as ours deserves better than that. Our local economy requires better than that. The taxpayers of Pensacola deserve better than that.

We still need a broader vision for the Port of Pensacola. We need a proper Master Plan for our Port, spearheaded by an administration with the creative thinking required not just to get the Port through the next 10 years, but to prepare it for the next generation of our local and regional economy.

Restoring the Port of Pensacola into a 21st Century version of job creation — and a higher return on our 54-acre asset — should be our goal. That forward-thinking vision of my administration also will work with such institutions as the IHMC and the University of West Florida, and others of that stature. We have a key opportunity to grow an actual maritime research institution on a prime location. We can make more effective use of the parts of the Port that are working well in the traditional sense, while freeing up unused tracts for research and commerce.

None of this will be accomplished overnight. But it is imperative that we begin the process to put our Port in a position to succeed, and not to merely exist. That is the legacy the generations before us hoped to leave us. And it is up to us to fulfill it.