Did you know that the Panama Canal is 100 years old this month? The canal was opened on August 14, 1914 and is a great reminder of what the agriculture industry has evolved to in the last 100 years. A $6 billion expansion of the canal is underway and projected to be completed in 2015. The expansion will allow larger ships to pass through importing and exporting more product to and from Florida.
Many ports around the state are also planning their own expansions, so they too can accommodate larger ships and take advantage of the new opportunities. Collectively, 15 ports will engage in water deepening activities spending an estimated $2.6 billion. In a recent article in News Sun, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that the expansions could more than double the shipping volume in 15 years.
In Polk County, the economic impact can’t fully be determined, but we can be assured it will increase demand for the many agriculture products being produced. Our products will be some of those filling the ships after they are unloaded. Officials also estimate the expansion will drive demand for support operations such as warehouse space, distribution facilities and ultimately more job opportunities at least in the areas where the expansion will be taking place.