Officials: Canal expansion to bring new jobs at PortMiami
MIAMI (WSVN) -- Government and business leaders touted an influx of new jobs in PortMiami that they claim will bring thousands of out-of-work South Floridians back into the workforce, a byproduct of an expansion the Panama Canal is currently undergoing.
"When this is completed, everyone in Miami-Dade County, basically, who wants a job should be able to get a job," U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson, one of several community figures who attended a business symposium on the projects Monday. The Florida congresswoman said the expansion to the Panama Canal is expected to bring in 33,000 new trade and tourism jobs.
"It's not just jobs-related, if you will, to the container side," said PortMiami director Bill Johnson. "Most of those will be in trade, but I remind you, this coming fall, starting this October, this port will grow to five million cruise passengers."
The most recent statistics show Miami-Dade County's unemployment rate is 9.3 percent. According to the Beacon Council, that corresponds to more than 112,000 people. The county is also showing 9,000 reemployment assistance claims filed.
While the projects described at the symposium would offer three times as many employment opportunities as assistance claims, officials question whether many job seekers would be willing to step in. "That's why we want to have this [event] today, so that people will be prepared," said Wilson. "If they lack the skills, they will be able to go to school and get those skills. Technology is taking over everything, so we're advising people, get off on the ground level."
While job seekers train, the projects will be developed. PortMiami's Deep Dredge project will make it the only U.S. port southeast of Virginia where mega cargo ships that make the passage through the Panama Canal could dock.
The 99-year-old canal is being widened and deepened, doubling its capacity and allowing larger ships to pass, according to officials. The Panamanian Ambassador to the U.S. said the expansion will have trickle-down benefits in South Florida. "It will be a win-win for everybody," said Mario Jaramillo. "Some people don't realize that even the cost of food will go down all over the world."
The Panama Canal expansion and the dredging of Port Miami are both expected to be completed at about the same time in 2015.
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