Florida Gov. Rick Scott is leading a trade delegation to California next month, on a mission to to lure business away from the state's ports.
“Dear Shipping Industry Professional” begins a letter Scott sent Thursday. "Our investment in port infrastructure means Florida’s ports are ready and have the capacity to immediately handle increased cargo that could come to Florida as a result of port congestion on the other side of the country."
California Gov. Jerry Brown’s office has reacted to Scott's overtures with amusement.
In a statement, Evan Westrup, Brown's spokesman, called Scott merely "one of the 60 million tourists expected to visit California this year" and said he welcomed the visit.
Posturing aside, the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach will be facing increased competition over the coming years, according to Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist with UCLA’s Anderson Forecast.
"Florida and Gov. Scott’s visit is only emblematic," said Nickelsburg.
Nickelsburg says Florida is not an ideal location for a port because it is far away from big East Coast population centers. But there are also many eastern ports expanding – eager to take business from California – as they wait for the Panama Canal to double its capacity.
“In 2016, when the canal is widened it will be possible to take larger ships through the east coast ports," said Nickelsburg. "That provides competition to the west coast ports.”
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach still have big advantages; The Panama Canal will have expensive fees, and ships coming from Asia have a much shorter trip to California than going all the way to Florida.