Download The Port as Growth Machine - University of North Florida

yes no Was this document useful for you?
   Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the workof artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Document related concepts

Gwadar Port wikipedia , lookup

‘A Deeper Channel Floats All Boats’:
The Port Economy as Urban Growth Machine
David Jaffee
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, FL 32224
[email protected]
Do not quote or cite without permission from author.
Presented at the annual meetings of the
American Sociological Association, Denver, August, 2012
The analysis of urban political economy has been influenced by the insights of the
“growth machine” model that posits the power and influence of land-based elites in
advancing a pro-growth agenda. As urban areas develop strategies for economic
expansion and job creation they are supported by elite coalitions and promoted through
the rhetoric of universal economic interest and civic boosterism. This paper analyzes
various dynamics of the growth machine model in the context of the recent growth
agenda advanced in support of the maritime port of Jacksonville Florida (herein referred
to as Jaxport). This case study will serve to highlight some of the ways in which this
model and associated forms of “boosterism” represent a powerful and compelling
framework for understanding urban development as well as the shortcomings revealed by
unintended consequences of the growth juggernaut. It will also illuminate the expanding
role and sectoral prominence of distribution and goods-moving – as opposed to
production, consumption, and goods-producing – as a consequence of globalization and
the rise of logistics.
The analysis of urban political economy has been shaped heavily by the insights
of the growth machine model (Molotch, 1976; Logan & Molotch, 1987) that posits the
power and influence of land-based elites in advancing a pro-growth agenda. As urban
areas develop plans for economic expansion, and advance particular strategies for local
and regional economic development, they are supported by elite coalitions and promoted
through the rhetoric of universal economic interest and civic boosterism. This paper
analyzes various dynamics of the growth machine model in the context of the recent
growth agenda advanced in support of the maritime port of Jacksonville Florida (herein
referred to as Jaxport). This case study will serve to highlight and illuminate some of the
ways in which this model and associated forms of “boosterism” (Cronon, 1991; Elfin &
Wysong, 1990; Lessof, 2008; Boyle, 1999) represent a powerful and compelling
framework for understanding urban development as well as the shortcomings revealed by
unintended consequences of the growth juggernaut (see Jonas & Wilson, 1999). The case
also points to the growing importance, but relative neglect within sociology, of the
goods-moving sector for urban and regional development.
Introduction and Background: Growth Machines and Port Economies
There are two perspectives that will inform the analysis of the recent and current
effort to mobilize economic and community resources around the creation of a port
economy in Jacksonville, Florida. First is the growth machine model (Molotch, 1976;
Logan & Molotch, 1987). The ability of the meta-theme of growth to mobilize and bind
local elites is based primarily on the material interests of those who own land and
commercial properties, and the prospect that growth will enhance the exchange-value of
these assets. These interests contribute to the political mobilization of elites who seek to
influence local government on fiscal and regulatory matters related to stimulating growth
and land use policy. As a consequence many other local urban actors and constituencies
also benefit from growth due to the resources that flow from an increasing population,
income stream, and tax base. This model includes an equally critical dialectical element
fueled by the “countercoalitions” that can emerge as growth infringes upon and threatens
both the use values and the potential exchange values of urban spaces and suburban
neighborhoods (Logan & Molotch, 1987). The mobilization of countercoalitions can
thwart efforts of local elites to impose their land use preferences on the local population.
A second closely related approach builds upon the growth imperative as a form of
civic boosterism that can serve to unify the community, mobilize public opinion, and
shape identities of place. In this view, the ability of local elites to advance the growth
imperative, and particular associated development projects, requires a range of strategies
and tactics that serve both to convince the local population of the goodness of the growth
plans as well as shape the larger image of the city and region in a manner that is
consonant with the intended development. Boyle (1999, p. 55) has described these
“efforts made by local elites to refashion collective emotion and consciousness within
cities in order to legitimate political projects that function primarily in their interests” as
“Urban Propaganda Projects”. While the term “booster” was originally used to describe
land speculators in the American frontier during the nineteenth century (Cronon 1991),
today it refers to any type of “promotion of regional economic growth” (Eflin and
Wysong, 1990), and associated strategies or tactics (Gold & Ward, 1994). Boosterism has
been the subject of studies of Sunbelt regions and cities such as Corpus Christi, Texas
(Lessof, 2008), and Tampa, Florida (Eflin and Wysong, 1990) that have attempted to
promote redevelopment, a new regional identity, as well as expand the tax base through
tourism and particular forms of commerce.
This analysis considers the ways in which the local port economy is supported
and promoted not only by the power of local and national economic interests competing
for the provision of scarce resources but also through public legitimacy campaigns
designed to mobilize public opinion and define the collective identity of the region.
There are some particular features of a port economy that serve to shape the
application of the growth machine model and introduce several other factors in the
analysis of the local political economy (see Bonacich & Wilson, 2009). The “port
economy” is defined here as the constellation of economic activities that revolve around
the transportation, logistics, and distribution of goods moving through a maritime port.
The growing significance of port economies over the past twenty years can be directly
linked to the larger process of globalization and the dispersion of production, or the
increasing distance between the point of production and the point of consumption
(Dicken, 1998). This is reflected in the well-established and growing literature on global
commodity chains, global production networks, and global value chains (Gereffi &
Korzeniewicz 1994; Henderson, et al., 2002; Coe, et al., 2004). Under a globalized
production system, raw materials are extracted in one place, parts and components may
be produced in another, manufacturing may take place in yet another, and final
consumption still another. As the geographic space between interdependent activities in a
commodity chain increases, transportation and logistics take on an increasingly vital role
in the circulation and distribution of commodities. In this context, U.S. ports, and the
urban areas and regions in proximity, serve as the spatial nodes through which global
commodity/production chains flow via intermodal transportation to national wholesale
and retail markets.
On the one hand, the port, as a node in global production networks, has increased
in relevance and significance as a result of the spatial dispersion of production, the
growing distance between production and consumption, and the subsequent need for
transportation and logistics networks and gateways (Hesse & Rodrigue, 2004, 2006). On
the other hand, the port economy itself engenders a spatially concentrated set of
interdependent landside distribution activities, usually in urban settings (see Jacobs,
Ducruet, & de Langen, 2010). Logistics related services are central to this concentrated
activity, described by Bonacich and Wilson (2008:64) as “a special kind of industrial
district, one geared to the process of international trade.” Rodrigue, Comtois, and Slack
(2009) describe these areas as “freight distribution clusters where an array of distribution
activities agglomerate” with the advantages of spatial proximity based on the factors of
land, accessibility, infrastructure, planning and regulation, economies of agglomeration,
and internal multiplying effects.
Within sociology generally, the greatest attention has been devoted to the
processes of commodity production and consumption while there has been relative
neglect of distribution and circulation (for notable recent exceptions see the work of
Bonacich and Wilson, 2008; Bensman, 2008). Urban sociology has also tended to view
cities as points of production and consumption, or centers for the agglomeration of high
value services such as finance and information processing. However, the growing
prominence of the goods-movement industries necessitates greater attention to cities as
“terminals” (Hesse, 2008) or “gateways” (Notteboom & Rodrigue 2005) through which
the flow of commodities is coordinated. This paper advocates much more theoretical and
empirical attention to the sphere of circulation and distribution, linked logically to the
spheres of production and consumption, and the role of logistics as a potential growth
machine for cities and regions.
Because container ship cargo coming from Asia, which makes up the vast
majority of goods flooding into the US market, is “discretionary cargo” consisting largely
of finished or semi-finished consumer goods, it is not linked or tied to any single
geographic location. That is, it could as easily enter the ports of Los Angeles and Long
Beach, though destined for the Midwest and the East coast (aka “landbridge”), instead of
New York and New Jersey; similarly, cargo could be routed through the Panama Canal
and into Jacksonville Florida or other East coast port to reach the same market. With
cargo loaded into standardized shipping containers, and an intermodal truck and rail
system capable of moving the containers rapidly throughout the United States, shippers
and ocean carriers have a great deal of discretion over the port of call. This
transformation in the nature of maritime cargo, and the loosening of the relationship
between the port and its local economy and market, serve to intensify port competition
which is now driven less by one’s particular geographic location than the port
infrastructure, the costs of moving cargo, and the ability of the cargo to seamlessly move
through an extended -- inter-organizationally and geographically -- supply chain
(Fleming, 1989; Fleming & Baird, 1999; Notteboom, 2004; Jacobs, 2007).
This means that promoting the growth of the port economy requires a different
narrative and a different array of players. It is also consistent with the larger shift of subnational governmental units -- such as cities, states, and counties – competing for private
capital investment and playing less a “managerial” than an “entrepreneurial” role
(Harvey, 1989). As part of the larger shift toward neo-liberal economic policy at the
international, national, and now local levels, the port economy development strategy is
consistent with what Swyngedouw, Moulaert, and Rodrigues (2002) describe as the
growing emphasis on large scale urban development projects (UDP) and the new urban
policy (NUP). This form of urban governance privileges state-financed development
projects driven by private –public partnerships but restricted in scope to the imperatives
of capital accumulation. Similarly, Brenner and Theodore (2002: 369-371) outline the
creation of a new infrastructure for market-oriented economic growth, commodification,
and the rule of capital. At the urban/local level the various strategies include new
networked forms of local governance involving the establishment of public-private
partnerships, the creation of privatized urban infrastructures designed to position cities
within supranational capital flows, and the construction of large-scale megaprojects
designed to attract investment and reconfigure land-use patterns.
The Case of Jacksonville Florida and Jaxport
We can now consider the particular case of Jacksonville in this larger context.
Geographically, Jacksonville is located in the northeast corner of the state of Florida. The
Jacksonville metropolitan area has a population of roughly 1.3 million. Downtown
Jacksonville lies on the banks of the St. Johns River 15 miles west of where the river
flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The river serves as the channel for the Jaxport marine
terminals located at several points along its banks.
In 2005 Jaxport operated two major terminals; Talleyrand, located close to
downtown Jacksonville, and Blount Island located closer to the mouth of the river. The
cargo coming through these terminals was highly diversified among bulk, break-bulk,
vehicles, and containers. The primary trade lane for Jaxport was North-South with the
Caribbean and Central and South America, and with the leading trading partner Puerto
Rico (which does not qualify as “foreign” trade). The relatively low level of container
traffic, coupled with the almost exclusive North-South trade lanes, made Jaxport a
relatively minor player in national port competition or among global port cities. In order
for Jacksonville to move to the upper echelon of East Coast ports (with New York/New
Jersey, Norfolk, Savannah) it would have to, first and foremost, attract some major ocean
carriers, and move far more Asian, or East-West, container traffic.
A critical turning point for the Jacksonville port economy came when Jaxport
retained John C. Martin Associates (Martin Associates, 2005) to conduct a business and
strategic analysis of the Jaxport enterprise. Martin Associates is the leading consulting
firm for maritime ports in the United States and they conduct most of the analyses and
economic impact studies for port authorities. The report included a comprehensive
analysis of all aspects of the Jaxport enterprise but, for the present purpose, the most
significant component pertains to the recommendations for expanding the operation.
Clearly the most robust growth market with respect to containerized cargo is the
Far East…With more shippers looking for diversification from the West Coast
ports, other North and South Atlantic ports stand to benefit from the growth.
JAXPORT appears to be a potential candidate due to the fact that it possesses
the key factors that are attractive to Far East Carriers… It is recommended that
the Port maintain its landlord status and focus on a shared investment with a
tenant in the development of Dames Point. A long term lease with a carrier or
terminal operator would then provide JAXPORT with the critical service to
further develop distribution center activity in the Jacksonville region, further
stimulating additional Asian carrier service, but also providing jobs to the local
and regional economy.
Jaxport followed closely this recommendation and executed it to perfection.
It signed agreements with two of the leading global Asian shipping lines – Mitsui
MOL (Japanese) and Hanjin (Korean). Currently in place is a completed 158-acre
container terminal (at a cost of $230 million) leased by Mitsui MOL (and operated
by its TraPac subsidiary) and a second 90-acre Hanjin container terminal (original
expected cost of $300 million) slated for completion in 2013, both at the newly
developed Dames Point location. Each container terminal will be capable of an
annual throughput of 800,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEUs) containers when
operating at full throttle. This would move Jaxport into the major league of maritime
ports. It was no easy task for Jaxport to pull off such an accomplishment but, as we
shall see, there remain significant obstacles to the realization of a fully functioning
port-driven growth machine as well as major league port status.
Growth Coalitions and Boosterism
The pro-growth coalition promoting the port economy has been led by the
Cornerstone Regional Development Partnership (renamed the JAXUSA Partnership), a
private nonprofit organization affiliated with the regional chamber of commerce. The
partnership includes relationships with development agencies in the seven county region
of Northeast Florida, as well as the 200 top private sector corporate entities in the
Jacksonville area. The staff of Cornerstone is dedicated to corporate relocation,
expansion, and site selection. In their effort to market the region, they place a heavy
emphasis on international business prospects, the port economy, and associated
intermodal logistics opportunities. The language of boosterism can be found throughout
the organization’s website:
The Jacksonville region is a “sleeping giant.
Jacksonville is positioned as a low-cost entry point for international businesses.
Jacksonville, Florida's emergence as one of the leading intermodal centers on the
eastern seaboard comes as no surprise.
Jacksonville is rapidly becoming a significant international business center.
Jacksonville is ideally suited to be your springboard to the world.
Jacksonville has become one of the nation’s foremost locations for logistics
companies and is poised to become a leading international center for trade and
Our region is home to JAXPORT, which offers superior infrastructure for highvolume distribution with no capacity pressures, substantial expansion capability
and no berth congestion.
You simply won’t find another location that offers the combination of attributes
Northeast Florida delivers. Here you’ll find a diverse workforce that is well
trained and ready to work, available site in close proximity to an extensive
transportation network and one of the country’s best intermodal systems.
Along with such sloganeering boosterism, there are more concerted efforts by cities
to construct symbolic representations of place (Shields, 1992) and engage in “place
management” (Ashworth & Voogd, 1994) or the social construction of place. This has
manifested itself into what is referred to as urban branding (Kavaratzis and Ashworth,
2005) based on the larger principles of corporate branding. As part of the promotional
campaign to redefine the regions economic strengths and attraction, economic
development officials have branded Jacksonville as “America’s Logistics Center”, an
effort that, like all good branding schemes, includes a distinctive logo (see below). The
newly developed branding logo has been placed at various strategic locations around
Jacksonville. The logo proclaims Jacksonville as America’s Logistics Center despite the
fact that there are several other cities and regions in the United States that can more
legitimately make the same claim.
The rhetorical and discursive strategies that are used by those promoting the port
economy are equally important. McCann (2002), refers to this as the “cultural politics”
involving “a set of discursive and material practices in and through which meanings are
defined and struggled over, where social norms and values are naturalized, and by which
‘common sense’ is constructed and contested” (p. 387). In his analysis of economic
development in Lexington Kentucky he demonstrates how cultural politics are
intertwined with place management. For Jacksonville this takes on the language of intercity competition and the use of sports metaphors such as being the “first to get across the
finish line” in deepening the St. Johns channel and attracting the post-Panamax container
In addition to the symbolic dimensions of boosterism there are also the very real
material interests that fuel the growth machine and have a direct stake in the success of
Jaxport. These business interests could be divided into the diffuse and specific. The
diffuse interests are represented by the larger pro-growth coalition supporting investment
that attracts new residents and expands the demand for real estate driving up property
values generally.
Specific forms of support come from those business interests more closely
connected to and standing to directly benefit from an expanding port economy. These
would include logistics firms broadly defined, those commercial real estate developers
that have invested in the construction of warehouse and distribution center facilities, and
firms likely to gain contracts from the expansion and modification of the land and coastal
infrastructure required for the movement of cargo and goods.
As plans for the two new container terminals were firming up, there has been
growing speculative investment in commercial real estate. Much of this has been in
warehousing and distribution centers where the anticipated containerized goods can be
cross-docked, reconsolidated, and value-enhanced for subsequent distribution. One
typical example is a 600,000 square foot plus warehouse built by Hillwood Investment
Properties, a commercial real estate developer headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. These
speculative investments are shaping land use patterns across the region as well as placing
demands on the local transportation system.
Infrastructural Challenges and “Second Nature”
One of the unique aspects of the Jacksonville case is the existence of particular
impediments to the realization of the port-based growth machine strategy. But these do
not take the form of “counter-coalitions”. As noted, Jaxport was remarkably successful in
implementing the consultant’s recommendations by signing long-term leases, and
constructing container terminals, with Mitsui and Hanjin (two major Asian shipping
giants). What is particularly interesting about the establishment of these relationships is
that they were accomplished before all the “natural” physical conditions were in place for
the full long-term utilization of the two terminals. First, the St. Johns River channel is not
currently at the necessary 50 foot depth required for the largest post-Panamax vessels to
access the terminals. Second, is the problem of tidal currents at the point at which the St
Johns River intersects the Intracoastal Waterway which prevents a 24-hour window of
port access.
The first issue will require a massive dredging/deepening project; the second
substantial coastal re-engineering. Optimally and more logically these two components of
the marine infrastructure would have been in place in advance of signing agreements with
the shipping lines to build container terminals. In fact, one might imagine that the
shipping lines would be hesitant to enter into any agreement until such conditions were
assured or met. However, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Jaxport to
lobby for these massive public investments in the absence of a real concrete need for such
significant modifications to the river. Thus, the decision was apparently made to put the
terminal before the channel. This may have been a strategic and calculated move that
would allow Jaxport and local officials to strengthen the argument for Federal support
and Army Corp approval of the dredging and engineering projects, claiming that the
existing terminals cannot function without them.
The role of natural physical conditions in both facilitating and thwarting the
aspirations of commerce for Jaxport and the Jacksonville port economy is a classic
example of Cronon’s (1991) concept of “second nature”. Cronon’s analysis of the
economic role played by Chicago in the development of the U.S. economy highlights
how presumably natural advantages are used to promote the city as an attractive location
for particular forms of economic activity. As Cronon explains: “A kind of ‘second
nature’, designed by people and ‘improved’ toward human ends, gradually emerged atop
the original landscape that nature – ‘first nature’ – had created as such an inconvenient
jumble. Despite the subtly differing logic that lay behind each, the geography of second
nature was in its own way as compelling as the geography of first nature, so boosters and
others often forgot the distinction between them. Both seemed quite natural.” (p.56).
In the case of Chicago, much was made of the role of the railroad as Chicagoans
“assimilated the railroad to the doctrine of natural advantages, merging first and second
nature so that the two became almost indistinguishable” with “first and second nature
mingled to form a single world” (p. 72-73). Similarly, for Jacksonville and other ports
along the Southeast Coast, other advantages must be championed that seem “natural” but
are in fact of the “second nature” variety identified by Cronon. Often cited are the
intrastate highways that offer north-south and east-west transit (I-95 and I-10,
respectively) as well as the CSX and Norfolk Southern rail systems that link to national
However, the most significant as well as challenging “natural” advantage that
Jacksonville possesses is the St. Johns River feeding into the Atlantic Ocean. At the most
fundamental level, this gives Jacksonville an advantage over other locations that have no
such access to global shipping lanes. The port in Jacksonville was originally built and
expanded to exploit this physical geographic asset permitting maritime shipping. Since
the port’s inception, the river has been modified and shaped in order to serve as a
commercial conduit. While both the deepening and Mile Point projects are framed as
alterations to natural conditions, they are simply the latest phase in the seemingly endless
reconfiguration of the physical environment to satisfy the imperatives of commerce.
As it pertains to the St. Johns River, there is a long history of redirecting the flow
and shape of the river for business interests and economic development. The river today
has little resemblance to its original state before significant human settlement. At one
time sections of the St Johns River were so shallow that cattle were able to walk from one
bank to the other. Hence the early name of the Jacksonville settlement as Cowford. The
first dredging and deepening operation was conducted in 1892 bringing the depth to 15
feet. In 1902 the river channel was deepened further to 24 feet and its width expanded to
300 feet from Jacksonville to the mouth at the Atlantic Ocean. In 1924 the channel was
deepened again to 30 feet. In 1945 the river was redirected at Dames Point creating the
Fulton Cut and forming Blount Island. Three additional dredging projects from 1965 to
the present have established the current depth at 40-42 feet.
Thus, as Cronon has noted, “Whatever the advantages of a particular landscape,
people seem to always reshape it according to their vision of what it should be…the
location with so many ‘advantages’ turned out to have some daunting disadvantages as
well” (p.55). For Jacksonville, while the river is an absolutely necessary condition for a
viable port it is now insufficient in its present form to satisfy the next phase of maritime
commerce. Further modifications to the river are once again demanded so that the largest
post-Panamax ships can be accommodated with 24 hour access. This will require major
public infrastructural projects related to dredging, deepening, and coastal engineering.
The Cost of Building A Port-Based Growth Machine
Promoting a particular engine for urban and regional growth that also requires
massive public investment in infrastructure – as does the port economy – poses some
additional challenges in the effort to galvanize widespread public support. Because the
financial costs of channel dredging/deepening are significant, they are typically shared by
federal and regional agencies. However, estimating the costs of such a project is itself a
strategic and political process. Projects that are too costly may fail to generate the
necessary public support or may fail to be approved by those in a position to do so. This
can give rise to serious distortions in the communication of the costs and benefits of this
development strategy. In the study of public works projects, there is considerable
evidence that costs are routinely and systematically underestimated. According to
Flyvbjerg et al.’s (2002) statistical analysis of 258 transportation infrastructure projects,
cost estimates are not only highly and systematically misleading but the underestimation
is best explained by intentional strategic misrepresentation (or, as they put it, “lying”). In
fact, Flyvbjerg (2005, p. 18) has developed the following equation for successful
megaproject approval:
(underestimate costs) + (overestimate revenues) + (undervalued environmental impacts)
+ (overvalued economic development effects) = PROJECT APPROVAL
One aspect of the growth machine phenomenon that should be more widely
considered is the extent to which growth machine coalitions supporting particular forms
of public investment, that enable large-scale development projects, facilitate and
encourage inaccurate and misleading cost (and benefit) estimates. In the case of various
and proposed maritime infrastructure projects aimed at deepening the St Johns River to
accommodate the larger vessels, there have been a range of estimates and re-estimates.
For Jaxport there are two major projects. The first maritime infrastructure project
is at “Mile Point” where the St. Johns River intersects with the Intracoastal Waterway.
The swift currents at this location prevent vessels from entering the channel except
during two four-and-a half-hour-long windows each day. The Army Corp of Engineers
recently approved the project to correct the problem and it is currently awaiting
congressional action. The current cost estimate for this project is $38 million.
The second and most significant and expensive project involves the deepening of
the St Johns River channel from 40 to 50 feet from the mouth of the river to the new
container terminals at Dames Point. This project will require a combination of dredging
and blasting. The Army Corp approval of the project is based on a cost-benefit analysis as
well as review for environmental implications. Initial estimates in 2007 and 2008 placed
the cost at around $400 to $500 million. Later a “rough estimate” was placed at $600
million (Bauerlein, Times-Union, 2009). In January 2010 the figure increased to $1
billion (Szakonyi, 2010, Jan29-Feb 4). When and if the project is approved the cost is
likely to exceed the current $1 billion estimate. This does not include the environmental
costs associated with altering the salinity and hydrology of the river.
The lengthy process involved in getting the approval of the Army Corp, and then
actually completing the dredging/deepening project, has also become a major issue for
the port and its customers. The Army Corp will conduct an extensive study of the costs
and benefits of the project that includes an environmental impact statement. The Corp
indicated in January of 2010 that the soonest post-Panamax vessels would be able to
access the port is 2016. A Jaxport spokesmen responded: “2016 isn’t acceptable and we
have to get closer to 2014.” The same report (Szakonyi, 2010, Jan29-Feb 4, p 1) noted
that “If Jacksonville is late to have deep water access, the larger ships would go to other
ports instead.” John Martin, head of the leading maritime port consulting firm added that,
“It isn’t clear how much of the fleet will be requiring 50 feet, but if you don’t have 50
feet you can’t market to carriers to bring in the big ships.”
In addition to the underestimation of costs is the overestimation of benefits. This
is a common aspect of the growth machine strategy, also highlighted by Flyvbjerg in his
analysis of megaprojects, particularly when the desired growth depends on public
approval and/or taxpayer dollars. In a period of economic crisis and high unemployment,
the promise of job-generating development projects can prove highly appealing. The
single most common argument made in favor of Jaxport expansion and infrastructural
investment is job growth. That is, one of the most significant benefits of the Jaxport
expansion – both the infrastructure projects and the continuing operation of the port –
could be the generation of new, and the expansion of existing, job opportunities for
residents of the region and beyond. This fact alone often trumps any other considerations
or objections related to excessive infrastructural costs or environmental consequences.
In assessing the jobs claim, and weighing costs and benefits, it is important to
consider both the quantity and the quality of employment opportunities. While the
Jacksonville community is told, at every opportunity, that “Jaxport Equals Jobs” there has
been very little detailed information about the quantity or quality apart from the
information disseminated by Jaxport through its website and included in their
promotional materials. More specifically, Jaxport consistently claims that Jacksonville’s
port “generates 65,000 jobs” and “these positions provide an average salary of $43,980,
well above the Jacksonville average of $27,215”
These figures are now echoed by all advocates of the Jaxport enterprise – from the
executive director of the port to the Jacksonville mayor -- though most are unaware of
their origin let alone their accuracy. They are derived from an economic impact study
conducted by Martin Associates, the leading consulting firm for the port industry. But it
is interesting how these numbers take on a life of their own. They are published in a
report, placed on the Jaxport website, quoted by the press, and then passed on as
empirically-based facts. However, a careful analysis of consultant’s report makes clear
that the job figure is inflated by at least half and the average income based on limited data
for far fewer than 65,000 workers thus also producing an inflated figure.
For the purposes here, details on the methodological shortcomings and the more
accurate figures are less important than the larger tendency by growth coalitions to make
grossly exaggerated claims regarding the economic benefits of urban development
projects (see Jaffee, 2010 for a critique and re-analysis). What is also interesting is the
use of a single consulting firm for almost all US port economic impact studies and the
role these firms play in the larger selling of the port-based growth machine dream.
The Local Business Press and Organized Boosterism
The local business press has also served as a major booster of the port economy.
In 2009 the editorial board of the Jacksonville Business Journal (JBJ) threw down the
gauntlet for Jacksonville’s economic development future. In “Game on for Jacksonville”,
the journal argued that Jacksonville had received its “economic development marching
orders” and they include, first and foremost, unwavering support for the half-billion
dollar dredging project to deepen the St. Johns River so that the largest container ships
will have access to the two new container terminals. The JBJ also noted that there will
need to be significant investment in road and rail infrastructure to move the cargo.
Without these two projects, Jacksonville can “watch the ports of Savannah, Charleston,
and Norfolk eat our lunch”. The call-to-arms editorial finished with a flourish: “If the
Northeast Florida business communities need a rallying point, this is it. All businesses
will benefit if Jacksonville becomes a major international East Coast port. Need a slogan?
Try this: A deeper St. Johns floats all boats.” It is hard to imagine a bolder claim for the
universal benefit of an expanding port economy.
On the navigational problems facing the intersection of the river and the
intracoastal waterway, which will require a major coastal engineering project to remedy,
the JBJ (Sept 4-10, 2009: 29) posed the issue this way: “Let’s see: Uninterrupted
shipments vs. hours of delay. Result of findings: Project economically viable, funding
approved. If only it were this easy. This is one case where Northeast Florida’s
representatives in Washington should swing into action and put some pressure on the
Army Corps bureaucracy to get this done quickly. Much is potentially at stake for our
region’s economy. Don’t let the port’s expansion plans be compromised by unnecessary
red tape.”
This salvo, designed to galvanize the local business community, represents a
familiar strategy in urban economic development. The JBJ returned to the port issue in a
January 2010 editorial re-emphasizing the urgency of the situation: “But here’s the
problem: If Jacksonville is not ready to receive the large ships from Asia in late 2014
when they start coming through the Panama Canal, it’s almost certain that other East
Coast ports — Savannah, Charleston, Norfolk — will receive them with open arms.
That’s not good. Jacksonville doesn’t want to have to play catch-up and try to lure those
larger ships here after they have established connections at other ports”. (Jacksonville
Business Journal, 2010, Jan 29, p.25).
In 2010 a more concerted effort to get the infrastructure projects moving more
quickly was launched by a coalition that included Jaxport, the Jacksonville Chamber of
Commerce, and local business leaders. They organized a lobbying campaign to pressure
the Army Corp and congressional representatives to fund and shorten the timeline for
project approval and completion. This campaign developed their own slogan -- “Bring
The Noise”. While possibly inspired by the hit song of the same name by Public Enemy,
it ironically suggests an open invitation to deliver to Jacksonville what other port
communities have learned to regret about a regional economy that depends on shipping
and logistics – audio, air, and water pollution complemented with truck-clogged
highways (see Matsuoka, Hricko, Gottlieb, & De Lara 2011).
The mission of this campaign, that claims to have mobilized the community to
write 14,000 letters to public officials in support of the port and the funding of the
infrastructural projects, is “to mobilize North Florida’s competitive spirit to drive port
progress, a stronger economy, and a better quality of life because everyone has a stake in
the port’s growth and together we are more than the sum of our parts”. The campaign
uses the same 65,000 jobs figure disseminated by the port and its advocates. There is no
mention of any potential costs associated with the project. The “title sponsor” of the
campaign is England-Thims & Miller Inc. a Jacksonville-based firm specializing in the
management of large-scale infrastructure projects. Other sponsors include CSX, a rail and
intermodal transportation company; the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors;
RS&H, a facilities and infrastructure consulting firm; Degrove Surveyors, Inc., a land and
hydrographic surveying consultant; HDR, an architecture, engineering, consulting,
construction and related services company; and Taylor Engineering, a coastal engineering
firm. In short, the local community has been asked to actively lobby in support of a
project by the very economic interests that stand to gain the most from the infrastructural
Most recently, some of the enthusiasm for the prospects of Jaxport becoming a
major East coast port has waned. One factor contributing to this development is the
unavoidable fact that the large number of east coast ports hoping to accommodate the
post-Panamax vessels, and cash in on the expansion of the Panama Canal, will create
significant overcapacity. There is currently intense competition among East Coast ports
for the anticipated increase in cargo associated with the Panama Canal expansion. Almost
every port is making investments in infrastructure and seeking Federal funding for coastal
engineering projects. Many of these investment plans were made prior to the Great
Recession. But given the unique set of conditions responsible for the boom period in the
earlier part of the decade, one must consider the extent to which overcapacity will plague
the shipping industry even if the global economy recovers.
Observers of the maritime port industry are beginning to highlight the obvious
and apparent dysfunctional situation of multiple East Coast ports competing and
expanding for limited and continuing depressed levels of container cargo. The Journal of
Commerce notes the “serious overhang of unused terminal capacity” and the fact that
major East Coast ports such as Savannah, Charleston, and New York/New Jersey are all
currently operating at less than 60% container capacity. In spite of this, East Coast ports
are still projecting $15 billion in infrastructural upgrading over the next ten years.
Based on conversations with stakeholders and observers of the port logistics
industry, there is growing resignation that Jacksonville will remain in the lower or second
tier among east coast ports and will be unable to meet its earlier aspirations for major
league status. This view was even communicated recently by the The Jacksonville
Business Journal (2011) which suggested Jaxport modify its mega-port aspirations and
pursue “Plan B”: “What we need now is a reasonable reassessment of Jaxport’s potential,
the niche markets we can pursue, the exports we can grow, and how we can build trade
with the fast-growing countries of South and Central America, Brazil first and foremost.
Our port likely won’t make it to mega-port status, but were still very much in the game.”
This paper has attempted to develop a preliminary analysis of an evolving urban
growth strategy employing the growth machine and “boosterism” models of urban
development and political economy. The focus is on the rise of an economic sector –
goods-moving and logistics – that has received insufficient attention from sociologists.
The urban case – Jacksonville Florida and the port economy – provides considerable
support for the efficacy of the growth machine model of urban development and the
associated tactics of boosterism to gain broader community support.
There are several key aspects of this urban growth strategy that have been
identified and that will be the focus of further study. First, consistent with original growth
machine formulations, the coalition of business interests, particularly land-based elites
with an interest in rising property values and speculative commercial real estate
investment, play an important role in the promotion of the port. For this particular
economic sector, warehousing and distribution centers serve as major claimants on urban
land use. The critical role of infrastructural development, as necessary conditions for the
realization of the port economy, stimulates the active involvement of coastal engineering
firms in the promotional effort as seen most clearly in the “Bring The Noise” campaign
that is currently underway.
Second, the business press – represented most prominently by the Jacksonville
Business Journal – has consistently called for a more aggressive lobbying effort in
ensuring that the port economies full potential comes to fruition and that the necessary
infrastructural projects get sufficient Federal funding and top priority among dredging
Third, the boosterism that designates urban and regional places as possessing
special physical and geographically unique qualities has been a major part of the Jaxport
campaign, as well as the self-proclaimed branding of the region as “America’s Logistics
Finally, a unique aspect of the Jacksonville case is found in the “natural”
impediments to the port economy growth strategy represented by a channel that is too
shallow for the desired container ships and coastal tidal currents that prevent around the
clock access to the container terminals. Altering and modifying the “natural”
environment and creating a “second nature” for the purposes of commercial interests
poses a significant challenge to the growth campaign.
How each of these factors will play out in the continuing effort by the City of
Jacksonville and the associated port economy growth coalition to build a national
logistics hub will be the focus of continuing research on this urban community.
Ashworth, G., & Voogd, H. (1994). Marketing of tourism places: What are we doing.
Global Tourist Behavior, 5-19.
Bensman, D. (2008). Globalization and the labor markets of the logistics industry.
Industry Studies Conference Paper.
Bonacich, E., & Wilson, J. B. (2008). Getting the goods: Ports, labor, and the logistics
revolution Cornell University Press.
Boyle, M. (1997). Civic boosterism in the politics of local economic development–
‘institutional positions’ and ‘strategic orientations’ in the consumption of hallmark
events. Environment and Planning A, 29(11), 1975-1997.
Brenner, N. & Theodore, N. (2002). Cities and the geographies of ‘actually existing
neoliberalism’. Antipode 34(3), 349-379.
Coe, N. M., Dicken, P., & Hess, M. (2008). Global production networks: Realizing the
potential. Journal of Economic Geography, 8(3), 271-295.
Cronon, W. (1991). Nature's metropolis : Chicago and the great west (1st ed.). New
York: W.W. Norton.
Dicken, P. (1998). Global shift: Transforming the world economy. Sage.
Eflin, J., & Wysong, J. (1990). Dynamics of management and planning policy.
Geographical Review, 80(2), 141-154.
Fleming, D., & Baird, A. (1999). Comment some reflections on port competition in the
United States and western Europe. Maritime Policy & Management, 26(4), 383-394.
Flyvbjerg, B. (2005). Machiavellian megaprojects. Antipode, 37 (1), 18-22.
Flyvbjerg, B., Holm, M. S., & Buhl, S. (2002). Underestimating costs in public works
projects. Journal of the American Planning Association, 68(3), 279-295.
Gereffi, G., & Korzeniewicz, M. (1994). Commodity chains and global capitalism.
Praeger Publishers.
Gold, J. R., & Ward, S. V. (1994). Place promotion: The use of publicity and marketing
to sell towns and regions. Wiley London.
Harvey, D. (1989). From managerialism to entrepreneurialism: The transformation in
urban governance in late capitalism. Geografiska Annaler, Series B, Human
Geography, 71(1), 3-17.
Henderson, J., Dicken, P., Hess, M., Coe, N., & Yeung, H. W. C. (2002). Global
production networks and the analysis of economic development. Review of
International Political Economy, 9(3), 436-464.
Hesse, M. (2008). The city as a terminal: The urban context of logistics and freight
transport. Ashgate Publishers.
Hesse, M., & Rodrigue, J. P. (2004). The transport geography of logistics and freight
distribution. Journal of Transport Geography, 12(3), 171-184.
Hesse, M., & Rodrigue, J. P. (2006). Global production networks and the role of logistics
and transportation. Growth and Change, 37(4), 499-509.
Jacksonville Business Journal. (2009). Editorial: game on for Jacksonville. April 6.
Jacksonville Business Journal. (2011). Editorial: Time for Plan B. November 25December 1. Page 21.
Jacksonville Business Journal. (2009). Editorial: red tape alert. September 7.
Jacksonville Business Journal. (2010). Editorial: who’s in charge? January 29.
Jacobs, W. (2007). Political economy of port competition. Institutional Analyses of
Rotterdam, Southern California and Dubai.Nijmegen: Academic Press, Europe,
Jacobs, W., Ducruet, C., & De Langen, P. (2010). Integrating world cities into production
networks: The case of port cities. Global Networks, 10(1), 92-113.
Jaffee, D. (2009). Economic impact studies and employment/earnings projections for the
Jacksonville Port Authority. Research Brief. The Ports Project. University of North
Jonas, A. E. G., & Wilson, D. (1999). The urban growth machine: Critical perspectives
two decades later State University of New York Press.
Kavaratzis, M., & Ashworth, G. J. (2005). City branding: An effective assertion of
identity or a transitory marketing trick? Tijdschrift Voor Economische En Sociale
Geografie, 96(5), 506-514.
Lessoff, A. (2008). Corpus Christi, 1965-2005. Journal of Urban History, 35(1), 108.
McCann, E. J. (2002) The cultural politics of local economic development:meaningmaking, place-making, and the urban policy process. Geoforum, 33, 385-398.
Martin Associates. (2005). Business and Development Strategy: Port of Jacksonville.
Lancaster, PA
Matsuoka, M., Hricko, A., Gottlieb, R., & DeLara, J. (2011). Global trade impacts:
Addressing the health, social and environmental consequences of moving
international freight through our communities.
Molotch, H., & Logan, J. (1987). Urban fortunes: The political economy of place.
University of California Press.
Molotch, H. (1976). The city as a growth machine: Toward a political economy of place.
The American Journal of Sociology, 82(2), 309-332.
Notteboom, T. (2004). Container shipping and ports: An overview. Review of Network
Economics, 3(2), 86–106.
Notteboom, T. E., & Rodrigue, J. P. (2005). Port regionalization: Towards a new phase in
port development. Maritime Policy & Management, 32(3), 297-313.
Rodrigue, J. P., Comtois, C., & Slack, B. (2009). The geography of transport systems
Shields, R. (1992). Places on the margin: Alternative geographies of modernity
Short, J. R. (1999). Urban imagineers: Boosterism and the representation of cities. In
Jonas, A. E. G., & Wilson, D. The urban growth machine: Critical perspectives two
decades later. State University of New York Press, 37-54.
Swyngedouw, E., Moulaert, F., & Rodriguez, A. (2002). Neo-liberal urbanization in
Europe: Large scale urban development projects and the new urban policy. Antipode 34,
3, 542-577.
Szakonyi, Mark. (2009). More study of Jacksonville port will delay improvements.
September 7. Jacksonville Business Journal.
Szakonyi, Mark. (2010). Jacksonville port seeks deepening speedup. February 1.
Jacksonville Business Journal