Ports are employing an entrepreneurial mindset to develop revenue opportunities outside of cargo.
*By Tom Gresham*
Cargo may be the work most associated with ports, but ports across the Western Hemisphere are enhancing their other existing sources of revenue and identifying new ones to bolster their bottom lines and better serve their regions. In the process, ports are pursuing creative commercial opportunities that naturally align with their assets and resources, while adding diversity to their portfolio in the event of cargo market slowdowns.
Mike Schiller, director of business development for the Port of Vancouver USA, said industrial and commercial revenue outside of cargo was a crucial component of his port’s budget and an essential part of the port’s role in the local economy.
“As we look to build out commercial and industrial activity, we really are focused on how that impacts our community,” Schiller said. “We see ourselves as a key economic development engine within our community, helping to grow the job base, and that is important to the decisions we make. We look to work with partners who can bring jobs to our community.”
At the Port of San Diego, cargo is far from the only line of work generating revenue to support the port’s operations. In fact, of the $193 million in operating revenue in the 2019-20 fiscal year budget, approximately $116 million derives from non-cargo sources, said Shaun Sumner, vice president of real estate, engineering and facilities for the port. Sumner said pursuing revenue opportunities outside of cargo helps the port serve its broader mission.
“We have a significant amount of infrastructure and management responsibilities around San Diego Bay, so it’s important for us to have a steady flow of revenue in order to cover those,” Sumner said. “And over the last several years, the port has become more entrepreneurial, focused on making some forward investments in planning and infrastructure, as well as in some businesses.”