Ports Beyond the Waterfront: Building Goodwill

Ports are vital to thriving communities and showcase that importance in numerous ways

*By Sandy Smith*

As a major driver of jobs, economy and natural resources, ports play an important role in community life. Sharing that importance with the community isn’t always easy, especially since much of what happens does so outside the public eye.

These types of actions rarely impact the bottom line directly. But it is the right thing to do, said Judith Adams, vice president of marketing for the Alabama State Port Authority.

“Are we motivated on a self-serving, community-promotion level in these initiatives? No,” said Adams. “Do we promote it afterward in the community? Not overtly. We do quietly report on the initiatives within our community via stakeholder newsletters, social media (primarily followed by our stakeholders) and our industry magazine. Those reports are geared toward saying thank you and recognizing unsung heroes. If the press picks it up, so be it.”

Community involvement helps to remove some of the mystery – and that can pay off in the long run. “The role of a port, especially a public port, is not to move cargo,” said Glenn Wiltshire, acting director at Port Everglades. “That’s part of our mission statement, but it’s also engagement with the community. There’s a percentage of the public that says, ‘We don’t know what goes on in there.’”

The costs of involvement pay dividends in many areas, said Robert Peek, JAXPORT director and general manager, sales and marketing. “Employees are proud to work for a company that is a good corporate citizen, which helps with employee retention. We also find that customers are increasingly interested in doing business with socially responsible companies as they look to improve the social impact of their supply chains. In addition, community involvement helps strengthen the partnerships that we have with customers and port partners, allowing us to work together to build a brighter future for all.”

That brighter future comes by tying the needs of the community into the resources of the port, creating a win for all involved.

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