Competition, strengthening relationships and enhancing port finances are priorities.
By Eric Kulisch
The new strategic plan for the Port of Los Angeles being fleshed out by Port Director Geraldine Knatz and her staff focuses on three priorities: competition, strengthening relationships with stakeholders and enhancing the port’s financial wherewithal.
Knatz told the Board of Harbor Commissioners at its September meeting that she hopes to have the five-year plan completed for their review by the end of the year.
In addition to physical upgrades, the port authority believes it can enhance Los Angeles’ competitive position by developing closer ties with the local business and residential communities, so that they understand the infrastructure projects help deliver their goods and create job opportunities, as well as with customers, “especially the railroads, whose rates can make or break our ability to handle that discretionary cargo,” she said.
Community engagement will hopefully translate into people coming to public hearings and otherwise voicing support for projects that need government approval, Knatz said.
As part of a new marketing plan, staff members will soon conduct a customer survey to develop a baseline for satisfaction with the port’s services and then follow up with other surveys.
On the financial front, Knatz said her priority would be to optimize revenues and maintain the debt coverage ratio and bond rating so it can borrow money for infrastructure at good interest rates.
Knatz suggested there has been revenue leakage on property rents and the staff would now make sure that leases or permits were not past due so the port collects up-to-date rents.
Another way to maximize potential revenue, she said, is to make sure the port doesn’t lose a portion of its government grant money by ensuring that all the money from each grant is used for specified projects within the grant term. And the port should explore new opportunities for grants from non-traditional government sources like the U.S. Department of Energy and from foundations, she said.
The port also should rebalance its priorities so that there is more focus on delivering revenue-generating projects ahead of non-revenue generating projects, the port director said.
Knatz said the port needs to limit the growth of its operating expenses. The port, for example, has to find ways to offset the 2 percent increase in salaries included in the current fiscal year budget.
The strategic plan is heavily focused on developing metrics against which performance can be measured and online tools customers can use to evaluate the port’s productivity.