Port Everglades is getting a new leader today — in the middle of a $1.6 billion dollar expansion, and the Coronavirus pandemic.
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Jonathan Daniels comes here from the Port of Gulfport, in Mississippi. After a national search, he replaces Glenn Wiltshire, who has been acting chief executive and port director at Port Everglades since spring of 2019.
Just before making the move to Broward County, Daniels spoke with WLRN about how he sees his new job as Chief Executive and Port Director, given the changing nature of the cruise industry during the pandemic.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
WLRN: Port Everglades has three main areas of business: cargo, petroleum and cruise ships. That includes tens of thousands of passengers for cruise ships, and the coronavirus pandemic has basically changed everything about the cruise industry.
What are your main concerns about how to keep passengers and employees on ships at the port safe when sailing is scheduled to begin again?
DANIELS: The job I interviewed for in February, it's a different world now. It's a different job than the one that I interviewed for. Sometimes things change daily from [The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention] CDC. And then sometimes we just can't get the proper, we just can't get the proper guidance.
Anytime you're bringing in outside influences, in this case people, you have the opportunity to bring the virus into that environment where it has not has not been. And the port's been extremely lucky in that respect.
Some of the first cases of the virus in Broward County stemmed from contractors at the port. Does that worry you?
Well, it worries me when you consider we try and predict what's next, only in the way in which we respond to what's occurring right now and trying to anticipate what that next move is.
We can not afford to be reactionary any more. But, the fact that we're dealing with a public that may be coming from far and wide is that— a lot of it is out of our control. So we need to make sure that we put in measures that alleviate the stresses that can occur anytime you're introducing a large amount of people.
I mean, the port, 3.9 million people moved through the port. I mean, that's 3.9 million instances where there could be some level of contact. What are we able to do to minimize that impact?
The port right now is making preparations for some of the activity to return, putting up shields, to ensuring that measures are in place.
So what we essentially need to do, you need to work with the [cruise] lines. And the port's real responsibility in that is making sure that there is a healthy transport corridor for goods and people. I was delightfully overwhelmed at the thoroughness and completeness of what is being done.
How do you think about this job differently because of the Coronavirus than you did six months ago?
So the health and safety of everybody around you needs to certainly be paramount. Where so much of the focus anytime you're looking a new position, you're looking at growth.
Now, you look at growth and development in the context of making sure it's done in a way in which you're healthy, you're safe.
The way in which we spend and utilize our marketing dollars, the way in which we reach new tenants, new business partners - all of that's going to change. Some of it's not bad. It's going to force us to get much more creative. That's the enjoyable part of it: How do we how do we change?
Because of the downturn in the economy, certainly, we're going to be looking closely at the revenues, expenditures and the capital programs.
What do you hope to accomplish at Port Everglades?
I've oftentimes been at facilities or been in situations that have required fixing. I don't necessarily see that here. So my job is to work with the staff, work with the county administrator and with the commissioners to ensure that there is a smooth transition.
I'm excited. I get very passionate about what we're doing. On the personal level, three of my four children live in Florida. The ability to be closer to my children was a driving force.
The port itself—and it is one that I applied for a position about 10 years ago—I've always had my sights on Port Everglades from the time that I was a little port director: An economic development entity, a job creator with transportation at its core.