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Port Manatee Welcomes Air Products to the Neighborhood


BRADENTON -- At Thursday's port authority meeting, commissioners viewed a presentation from Air Products. Sandy McLauchlin, Air Products' General Manager, walked commissioners through Air Products' history, marketplace and intent as they become the port's newest neighbor. There is a lot riding on this new "Florida International Gateway" resident.

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                                 AIR PRODUCTS AND CHEMICALS INC.

What Air Products (AP) does best is process liquified natural gas. It is also the world leader in building the equipment to do so. 

Last November, AP bought 32 acres at Eastport Industrial Park, across U.S. 41, just a stones throw from Port Manatee property, to build a equipment manufacturing plant. Their equipment transforms natural gas into a liquid state, making it easier to transport to markets around the globe. 

AP chose this location because of its proximity to the port, and the large package of incentives the county and state made available. AP has received $1.75 million as a job performance based incentive from the state as well as a $680,000 incentive from the county, if the 250 jobs AP promised is achieved. 

There was also a $47,000 transportation impact fee incentive offered by the county, and talk that suggested one of the Port board members coming from the private sector, the east side of U.S. 41 where AP has set up shop.

Before AP sealed the deal last November, they were awarded protection from any responsibility to environmental issues that arise from the property they bought, at Piney Point. That property was last owned by HRK, and their dredging project in 2011 sprung leaks that put 170 million gallons of toxic gypsum stack reservoir water directly into Bishop Harbor. 

HRK filed for bankruptcy, and AP picked up the 32-acre site for a bargain price. When the Bishop Harbor event happened, the Piney Point phosphate facility had already cost county residents a hundred million dollars in blunders.

The county has a lot riding on AP's continued success and McLauchlin, spoke about how AP's fate is looking better than ever. He said, "10 years ago, we were importing natural gas, now we are exporting it." McLauchlin added, "Shale has changed the picture."

Air Products and Chemicals Inc., is number 265 on the "Fortune 500 List" and has grown to $10 billion in annual sales. The Port of Manatee is banking a good amount of faith on AP and hoping the company's model will become contagious. 

While AP is promising 250 jobs, it is understandable that a good portion of those will be imported, and the 250 number is scheduled four years down the road. 

McLauchlin said, "…because we are the leader in our field, we protect our secrets."

There are environmental issues that come with LNG -- assumed to be environmentally "the lesser of the evils" -- because the cost for natural gas, cradle to grave, is more than the current market price suggests. 

The town is banking on McLauchlin and company, and that they do have a few secrets up their sleeve. 


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