By Chris Connor, President & CEO, American Association of Port Authorities
As this edition of Seaports Magazine reaches your home or office, I will have reached my one year anniversary at the helm of AAPA.
And what a year it has been!
It would be natural to launch into a few paragraphs about the magnitude of the coronavirus, and how it has impacted our lives, our business and our world. But I’m going to spare you that because you already know – you’re living through it – and understand all too well the havoc this insidious virus is causing.
Instead, I’d like to focus on some of the things that AAPA has been able to achieve over the last 12 months. This is inherently more forward looking – and quite frankly more fun to talk about. Moreover, it’s my hope and belief that the steps taken thus far, the improvements made – and those still to come – will define AAPA for the longer term and position the port industry for a new and sustained period of growth once the coronavirus is tamed.
• Dramatically changed our governance model through the By Laws Task force led by Paul Anderson. Details have been distributed and ratification is expected during the annual (virtual) convention in late September. Streamlined governing body and longer Board terms will lead to a more nimble and focused AAPA for the future.
• Reached agreement to sell our building at 1010 Duke Street, with a settlement date set for September 24. Proceeds from the sale will allow AAPA to pay off the short-term borrowing that was necessary last winter, and at the same time set up a healthy reserve to protect the Association for the long haul.
• Sculpted a new business plan that emphasizes growth in members/membership categories, increases focus on strategic sponsorships from industry suppliers, includes a shorter and less costly PPM offering, and committed to re-establishing advocacy leadership on Capitol Hill.
• Engineered the painful but necessary increase in Corporate member dues. While I wish this had not been needed, I am grateful for the strong support Corporate members displayed throughout this process.
• Re-tooled both AAPA Advisory and AAPA Alert newsletters to provide crisper and sharper reporting and content.
• Landed DOL grant for administration of workforce development programs and launched same under the brand ACCELerate.
• Quickly pivoted to virtual programming and created “AAPA Anywhere.” So grateful to the leadership of the Security Committee for giving us the opportunity to launch this initiative during their seminar.
• Conducted a Port CEO Survey in June that yielded strong results and provided a jolt of energy to AAPA staff to continue to strive for even higher levels of member satisfaction.
• Worked tirelessly to persuade Congress to provide financial relief to ports stemming from the pandemic. As of this writing we are hopeful that Congress will pass the MTSERA legislation originated in the House and mirrored in the Senate. MTSERA, in and of itself, will be a huge win for the port industry writ large. Should it come with an appropriation in the next relief bill it will be an amazing victory in terms of recognition by the federal government that ports play a critical role to our economy.
• Doggedly continued to pursue HMT reform in accordance with the AAPA agreement of January 2018, and, despite many twists and turns over the ensuing months since, we are seemingly on the verge of a breakthrough once passage of WRDA 2020 is complete.
• Influenced Congress to increase annual PIDP funding in the THUD appropriations bill for FY2021 as well as an epic $1B emergency appropriation for PIDP. This bodes well for infrastructure development at ports for the next few years, and the $1B was exactly as requested by AAPA as far back as March in a letter to Secretary Mnuchin.
• Launched #PortsUnited social media channels to amplify our advocacy efforts with key legislators (follow us on Twitter!).
• Took on the complex CBP free space issue and, while far from resolved, we’re building momentum toward clearer and fairer treatment of ports.
So, notwithstanding the backdrop of the crisis of our respective lifetimes, we’re proud of the progress made over the last months and are ready and highly motivated to continue to forge ahead and strengthen our Association.
In closing I would like to give a shout out to the role played by outgoing Chairman Gary Nelson in the positive developments that have occurred at AAPA. Gary has been a true champion for AAPA. He’s made himself available always (oftentimes over weekends) and has offered consistently wise and sage advice. I especially have appreciated his “voice of reason” – guiding me through some of the more difficult challenges we have encountered. I will be forever grateful for the leadership and guidance he has given me and AAPA. Thank You Gary!