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Port Tampa, Port Manatee meet, hoping to heal rift

ST. PETERSBURG — Today's [Aug.13th] meeting of Tampa Bay's seaports was billed as a chance to promote regional economic development.

But in reality, it was a peace summit to heal the rift between Port Tampa Bay and Port Manatee.

Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad left no sports metaphor behind in declaring himself the referee of this regional economic conflict.

The state wasn't spending millions on Florida's ports so they could compete at the expense of each other, Prasad told a group of more than 50 officials and spectators attending the meeting at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

"The goal here is not to steal from each other," Prasad said. "The goal is for Florida ports to steal from other states' ports."

Prasad sat between delegations from the Tampa Port Authority and the Manatee County Port Authority, who sat on opposite sides of the table.

The two ports have spent the past year at odds. Last year, Manatee accused Tampa port officials of seeking to combine both ports into one regional port authority.