The paper presents a conceptual framework for developing regional partnerships and stakeholder collaborations to maximize port industry performance, improving port competitiveness and advancing the regional economy. A unique simulation tool is proposed as a core aspect of this framework. This tool will have the ability to quantify benefits of other projects, evaluate the impact of suggested policies and alternative business or operational strategies, and identify potential bottlenecks in the existing infrastructure under anticipated future conditions. In turn, all these will facilitate informed decision-making and increase the probability of consensus building. Example applications of the proposed tool in the NY/NJ region are presented. Further, two other important aspects of the framework, the outreach and educational components are discussed in this paper. The important role that academic institutions can play in developing and implementing the components of the proposed framework and a review of initiatives currently under way at Rutgers University, are also presented in this work.