Jacksonville, FL - There was a lot of hope that speaking at JAXPORT would bring some kind of announcement dealing with pending projects like Mile Point.
While there were no specific promises made there, that didn’t dampen excitement for what’s coming.
“I think that kind of indicates some of those things are already in acceleration,” says JAXPORT Board Chairman Joe York.
York was happy to hear the President shine a positive light on the port, and talk about places he wants to see it grow, including a deepening project allowing for “super containers” to use local ports.
The message overall, however, was on the role of industry and manufacturing in the middle class economy.
“We’ve gotta help more manufacturers bring jobs back to America, we’ve gotta keep creating new jobs,” Obama says.
The local impact of growing ports are very real for not just the people who work on port projects, but the surrounding community.
“People who work at the port- they don’t spend their money at the port. They buy houses, cars groceries, every other thing. So everybody benefits by what comes through the port,” says International Longshoremen’s Association Executive Vice President Charles Spencer.
Beyond just the ports, Obama says there are a lot of projects that would benefit the middle class that are currently tied up in Congress. He used his speech today to call for an end to that gridlock, especially with budget negotiations.
“I think that there are Democrats and Republicans who understand what’s at stake, and I’m gunna welcome ideas from anybody across the political spectrum,” he says.
But if that still stalls, Obama made it clear that he will not wait for Congress, and rather act on whatever he can without their approval.
For the invite-only crowd looking on, that was a welcome message.
“Dealing with healthcare issues, dealing with them [my kids] in school, dealing with them in education, dealing with a lot of things he mentioned about the economy is real important to me,” says Arlington resident Kevin Holzendorf.
Ultimately, Obama didn’t provide many specific details about what he would be acting on or what his plan to refocus the economy on the middle class actually includes, he says that will be rolled out in the coming weeks.
And as for Jacksonville’s port projects still tied up in Congress, Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown says it may not be that way for much longer. She says she’s had the chance to meet with the new Transportation Secretary, who was also present for the speech today, about the Mile Point project, and she’s “encouraged” with recent progress.
“We’re working through the logistics, hopefully we can get it up and out in August so we can get it out on the 1st of September. That would be a major accomplishment of this Congress,” she says.
The project, which would fix a dangerous cross current in the river that prevents the largest ships from using the port most hours of the day, had the funding lined up from the state. Actual work, however, cannot begin without Congressional approval.
Right now, the project is tied in to the “Water Bill”, which Brown says the Congress hasn’t passed for 7 years. The Senate has passed its version of the bill, and she expects the House will soon follow.