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April 22, 2020 – PALM BEACH COUNTY - Top leaders from Palm Beach County’s distribution and logistics industries convene to discuss new trends and updates on the Business Development Board’s Task Force meeting each quarter. Today’s conference call meeting was utilized as a critical platform to communicate what experts are doing in the county to adapt.
The Port of Palm Beach shared that there have been no reports of illnesses with employees onboard any of the ships. Carl Baker of the Port of Palm Beach reported cruise ships are idle however, Tropical Shipping is active. The company transports containers with various commodities to the Bahamas, which activity for that has been down nine percent from January. Warehouses in the islands are at capacity, so Tropical is having to store items. Shipment of sugar, molasses and other commodities is steady.
Gary Sypek of Palm Beach County Department of Airports reported that all county airports are open, but passenger traffic is down 95 percent at PBI. Aircraft operations at PBI have seen a decline of about 75 to 80 percent. Air carrier flights are at only one-fourth of their normal schedule. How seating will be arranged (i.e. no middle seats sold) post COVID-19 has not been determined. Air travel may cost more due to anticipated new seating guidelines. March 2020 cargo activity is down 11 percent over March of 2019. In discussions with UPS, they will likely see an increase in shipping more testing supplies in the coming months. UPS’ business model relies on more bulk distribution loads versus small individual deliveries. They prefer truck load clients where trucks are delivering to just one stop. The Department of Airports is currently revising a proposed FY 2021 budget and its existing FY2020 budget in hopes of reducing operating and capital costs.
An overview of the agriculture industry brought advice on how the public can support local farmers. When shopping at the grocery store, try to purchase local fresh produce. Caroline Villanueva of Florida Crystals shared that the company has been helping local farmers by connecting them with new buyers. Florida Crystals has also donated nearly 80,000 pounds of sugar, which reached distilleries making hand sanitizers.
The Florida Turnpike shared updates regarding the transformation of toll booths in Palm Beach County. Due to COVID-19, collectors have been removed from toll booths to reduce the spread, but this was also part of the long-term plan to eventually shift to electronic toll systems. The new system will be automated, with passes providing 25% off on tolls.
The call with some of the industry’s top leaders concluded with optimism and resiliency. As businesses face challenging times, most distribution and logistics companies are using this time for repairs, maintenance, and infrastructure improvements. As business leaders combat the global pandemic, Palm Beach County’s distribution industry has continued to adapt so that they will bounce back stronger than ever. It was strongly recommended that as leaders in this particular industry, among others, start preparation of resiliency plans which begin with developing a list of critical metrics.