A novelty-sized check for $110 million was presented to Long Beach and Los Angeles port officials by state leaders Friday, reaffirming funding toward the nation’s first facility devoted to training supply chain workers for current and future jobs, which will be located within the San Pedro Bay ports complex.

The facility will be located on 20 acres of Port of Los Angeles property adjacent to the Port of Long Beach’s Pier A West, making it easily accessible to both complexes. The campus will provide a centralized location for attracting, recruiting, training and retraining dockworkers, truck drivers, warehouse employees and other essential logistics workers.

“The state-of-the-art campus will be the first of its kind in this nation, helping keep the West Coast ports competitive, efficient and sustainable,” Chad Lindsay, vice president of the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shippers and terminal operators, said during the event.

“These up-skill and re-skill programs will prepare workers for the jobs of the future, providing the specialized training they need to keep pace with evolving technologies and equipment in this fast-changing industry,” he added.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13 outgoing-President Ramon Ponce de Leon noted that the campus is modeled after an existing facility in Canada.

The new center comes as the contentious topic of automation at port terminals continues to dominate discussions among port employers and labor groups. Ponce de Leon, for his part, said the union recognizes the need to protect the environment but that it should not come at the expense of thousands of jobs.

Ponce de Leon recalled conversations with Mark Jurisic, whom he ran against for his position, about the future of dockworkers in the face of advancing technology. The two agreed a decade ago that a training center was crucial to preserving those jobs.

“If there are no jobs, we’re on the streets,” Ponce de Leon said of Local 13, which represents over 8,000 members. “Going forward, there should be a national strategy not only for environmental needs, but for economic and environmental needs. People need to be working.”

State, local and port leaders celebrated with union and employers $110 million in state funding for the Goods Movement Training Campus, a joint venture to train and up-train port workers for existing and future jobs, Friday, March 24, 2023. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

To that end, Ponce de Leon said all the players—from the state Legislature and port officials to PMA and the union—have been working together to make this project a reality.

“We are humbled and thankful and grateful for … everybody involved in putting this thing together,” Ponce de Leon said.

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero commended the ILWU for its “determination” and “wherewithal” to push the project forward.

The campus is expected to open by 2029, according to port officials.

Early estimates on the project, which includes ship-to-shore gantry cranes and other equipment for training purposes, put the total cost around $150 million, according to Port of LA spokesperson Phillip Sanfield. The final price tag, however, is expected to be higher, he added.

The $110 million from the state will be allocated across three fiscal years, starting with the current cycle and followed by the next two consecutively. Additional funding includes $15 million from the PMA as well as $40 million from the Port of LA—pending harbor commission approval, port Executive Gene Seroka noted during the event.

“This project is the key to the future of the economy for the state of California and this nation,” Cordero said. “As we continue to invest in the future of goods movement at this port complex and continue to balance supply chain challenges, while accelerating the deployment of zero-emission technologies and furthering the framework of 24/7 operations, we have a responsibility to support training that will create jobs, not eliminate jobs.”

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.