At the Port Industry Briefing event held in Long Island last month are Steve Liberti of Harbor Freight, Kevin Catucci of American Stevedoring, Migna Sanchez of Harbor Freight, Augie LoBue of FAPS, Inc., Beverly Fedorko of New York Shipping Association,Tom Moleta of East Coast Warehouse, Sharon McStine and Bill Cronin of the Port Authorit y, and Dennis Liberti of Inland North America.
Since the early 1990s, the Port Authority has conducted out-of-town briefings in an ever-expanding list of cities. "People want their cargo moved, and it's our job to help them," says Bill Cronin, Manager of Shipper Sales for the Port Authority.
Together with a delegation that may include port tenants such as auto processors, warehouse and terminal operators, as well as Class I railroads, the briefings are a chance to meet with current and potential port customers and update them on what is being done to improve shipping through the port, and how the Port Authority is preparing for future growth.
To expand outreach, the Port Authority partnered with the New York Shipping Association (NYSA) in 2002 and, today, the stops include Boston, Buffalo, Columbus, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. The most recent addition was Melville, Long Island, where more than 40 people attended the luncheon briefing on February 21. Minneapolis and the CT/Westchester area may soon join the roster.
The consensus among those who join the delegation is that the briefings are effective. "Shippers give you a second look when you're introduced by the Port Authority," says Steve Liberti, President of Harbor Freight. "I'm hurting myself by saying this, but people are foolish not to attend these events."
Beverly Fedorko, Director of External Affairs for the NYSA, often finds herself answering questions from attendees who are trying to decide between NY/NJ and another option, perhaps Savannah or Los Angeles. "I tell them about our excellent working relationship with the labor in our port, our productivity, the members who have made improvements on top of what the port has made, our increasing efficiency and that we're working hard to give them better service."
An attendee may not make that decision at the briefing, and it is rare to walk away from a briefing with new business. Yet the relationships made at the briefings build over time. "It provides you with the chance to tell them what you can deliver as a service provider," says Tom Moleta, CES Sales Manager for East Coast Warehouse, a regular presenter. "It makes for an interaction. Sometimes they have a need, but don't know where to go." He points out that the presentations help potential customers see how using the Port of NY/NJ will help them move their cargo, not just to and from the tri-state area, but also to the Midwest, Canada, Boston and other destinations.
Bob LaMura, Commercial Director for Port Newark Container Terminal, finds that the message is clearer when delivered on a personal basis. "It helps when a potential customer, from Cleveland for example, has a representative from rail, warehousing and trucking in one room. He or she gets what is needed in one conversation, so it all comes together," he said.
LaMura explained that sometimes individuals who aren't regularly at the port might not know its geography. He often finds himself unfolding a map so he can show somebody unfamiliar with terminal configurations exactly where cargo is delivered for customs inspection, or how a box actually moves from one place to another. "People who attend the briefings are genuinely interested in learning more about the port. There's an education going on at these briefings. they could be called seminars. We can't give them enough; they're hungry for information," said LaMura.
Gary L. Love, Director of Sales and Marketing at FAPS, Inc., agrees with LaMura. Love regularly makes presentations at cities associated with the automotive industry and long ago learned the briefings are not just an outing. "It's definitely relationship building, and it's proving beneficial over time. I believe we've done well."
And that is probably the key to the success of the briefings. "There's no replacement for a handshake and a smile and 'it's great to see you again'." says Fedorko, who has helped numerous attendees she's met at briefings. "That can never be replaced." Cronin summarized it best: "People have choices. We want their choice to be the Port of New York and New Jersey."