Florida: Made for Trade

Florida Trade and Logistics Study 2.0 (October 2013)

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In 2010, Florida’s public and private leaders identified a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the state’s economy by becoming a global hub for trade, logistics, and export-oriented manufacturing activities.

Since the publication of the Florida Trade and Logistics Study in 2010, the state has invested in strategic transportation projects, created its first-ever statewide freight mobility and trade plan, and initiated innovative programs for employer-driven training and company-specific export development. Initial results suggest these actions, along with a stronger global economy, are increasing trade and creating new jobs.

Global trade played a key role leading Florida’s economy out of the recession. Florida created nearly 23,000 new jobs in trade and logistics from 2010 to 2012, and more than 9,000 new jobs in manufacturing.1 The value of goods exported by Florida companies increased nearly $11 billion to a record $66 billion.

As global trade and economic activity shift over the coming decades, international commerce can be an even more important driver of Florida’ future. The global economy is expected to double in size over the next 20 years, with more than one billion new consumers by 2020. The continued shift in U.S. growth to the Southeast, rapid growth in Latin American and Caribbean markets, the widening of the Panama Canal, and the “near sourcing” of global supply chains back to the Western Hemisphere all suggest that Florida could be at the crossroads of vital north/south and east/west trade lanes in some of the world’s most heavily traveled waters and airspace.

In addition to its location, Florida offers an abundance of resources in the global market place, including one of the United States’ largest consumer and visitor market, extensive transportation infrastructure, and longstanding business and cultural ties to Latin American and Caribbean nations. The state’s agricultural products and natural resources are sold worldwide, and the state’s manufacturing sector, while small, Is globally oriented. About 60,000 Florida businesses export at least one product, accounting for one in five exporters nationally.

However, Florida faces unique logistics challenges. With a large consumer market and relatively small manufacturing sector, Florida historically has been a net importer of freight, sending many trucks and trains back out of the state empty or partially loaded. Florida’s distance from major U.S. markets traditionally has meant that seaports in other states—particularly in the Southeast and on the West Coast  – supply imports to Florida businesses and consumers.

At the same time, Florida’s competition is gaining ground. Florida’s share of U.S. exports to Latin America and the Caribbean fell four percentage points over the past decade, and Florida accounts for just one percent of U.S. exports to Asia.5 Emerging transshipment hubs across the Caribbean are offering new alternatives to Florida for handling global trade flows. To be competitive in the future, Florida must maintain its historic leadership as Gateway to the Americas and gain share in trade with emerging markets.

Florida has three opportunities to maintain and expand its role as a global hub:

  • Move more trade through Florida’s sea and air gateways, with an emphasis on moving more imports directly to Florida and better balancing inbound and outbound trade flows;
  • Make, grow, and refine more products for export from Florida, by expanding exports of Florida-origin manufactured goods, agricultural products, and other natural resources; and
  • Multiply the impacts of global trade in Florida, by providing value-added services to trading businesses in Florida and trading partners around the world and by expanding Florida’s role as a global hub for visitors, investment, and talent.

Successfully positioning as a global hub will allow Florida to transform its economy – preserving historic strengths in agriculture, tourism, and population growth, while building global leadership in transportation, distribution, and logistics; export-oriented manufacturing; and trade-related business services.