Byline: Christopher Calnan, Times-Union staff writer
The Jacksonville Port Authority took a bite out of the Big Apple's business last year.
For the first time in its history, the authority overcame New York-New Jersey as the nation's No. 1 port for processing vehicles, JPA officials said.
Auto processing has long been a staple for the JPA, which, in addition to being No. 1 in Florida, has consistently ranked as the No. 2 car handler in the country, behind the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. But the JPA cruised into the No. 1 berth during 2001 and officials said the ranking will help attract more business.
"It's a great marketing tool," JPA spokesman Robert Peek said. "We can walk into the office of an auto processor and say, 'We have a great track record for processing vehicles.' "
Four vehicle processors operate in Jacksonville preparing vehicles for dealers by cleaning, inspecting and fixing defects. Processors also customize vehicles by installing options, such as stereos and roof racks, before shipping them to dealers on trucks.
During 2001, Jacksonville handled 579,924 vehicles, an 8 percent increase from the previous year. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey moved 549,496 vehicles, a nearly 3 percent decline.
Nearly half of the vehicles processed in Jacksonville were made by Toyota.
New York and New Jersey's ranking drop isn't the start of any trend, it's just a blip on the screen, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman Steve Coleman said.
"It was basically due to a normal fluctuation in the market," he said. "We don't view it as a major decline."
The JPA's fiscal year ends in September, New York and New Jersey reports on the calendar year. The New York-New Jersey figures were released in March, but the JPA didn't get the numbers from the American Association of Port Authorities until this week.
Coleman said the New York-New Jersey port closed for two days after last September's terrorist attacks, but the attacks weren't a factor in the decline of vehicle figures.
AAPA spokeswoman Eileen Denne said being No. 1 may prove to be financially useful to Jacksonville.
"If they can cite the numbers and growth, then they can use that to leverage new business," she said. "It shows that they have the expertise in auto processing."
Ports make money from the auto processors by leasing space at their terminals. Three processors rent facilities at JPA's Blount Island terminal: Southeast Toyota Distributors, American Port Services and Distribution and Auto Services. A fourth, Mercedes-Benz USA, operates its own processing facility on Jacksonville's Southside.
The processors handle more than a dozen makes of cars each day, with a variety of models, from small compact cars to large sports utility vehicles. …