Sector Portrait: Trade
International Trade is a Bright Spot for Florida
Trends and challenges at Florida's airports, seaports, and free trade zones.
Trade officials say Florida needs more intermodal railroads to pick up cargo at ports.
Retaining business, say trade officials, will require significant investments in ports and transportation infrastructure. These days "speed to market" is the top concern for manufacturers, says Michael Hopkins, vice president of Latin American operations for Crowley Liner Services, which has terminals at Port Everglades and Jaxport. But Florida's interior transportation infrastructure isn't always efficient at moving cargo into and out of airports and seaports. "Florida is currently one of the most difficult states to get around in physically," says Michael Cavendish, a Jacksonville attorney with Gunster and chairman of both the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and the Northeast Florida Regional Transportation Study Commission.
Among needed changes, officials say:
- More intermodal railroads picking up cargo on port docks
- Better road connections between airports and seaports and major highways
- Uniform highway tolls
- Widening I-95
Trains and trucks that cart goods into Florida return north largely empty — excess capacity that is an opportunity for importers to move their cargo northward inexpensively. Inbound freight tonnage, according to the Florida Chamber Foundation study, is 80% larger than outbound tonnage. That makes the state a potentially attractive location for major retailers' warehouse and distribution sites, says Joel Haka, executive vice president and COO of Florida East Coast Railway.
"Our relationship with Latin America is what gives us an edge in foreign direct investment. But having too many eggs in one basket, especially when that basket is in the developing world, can be troubling."
[Photo: Daniel Portnoy]
But, he says, attracting those retailers and the ocean cargo lines that carry goods for them will require a coordinated, statewide strategy that includes marketing and the use of financial incentives.
Challenge: Diversify Export Destinations
TD Bank economist Alistair Bentley says that boosting high-value exports such as aviation, photonics and biomedical technology would help grow the state's manufacturing sector. Manny Mencia, Enterprise Florida's senior vice president and COO for international trade and development, believes one of the fastest ways to grow exports is to help current exporters expand to more countries.More than 60% of Florida's exports ship to Latin America and the Caribbean. Mencia says Florida's top priority must remain its relationship with that region, but the state also needs to increase trade with other markets, particularly Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
|Airport||Commercial Passengers (2010)|
|Miami International Airport||35,029,106|
|Orlando International Airport||34,288,697|
|Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport||22,412,627|
|Tampa International Airport||16,645,765|
|Southwest Florida International Airport (Fort Myers)||7,380,596|
|Palm Beach International Airport||5,864,910|
|Jacksonville International Airport||5,601,500|
|Pensacola Regional Airport||1,439,740|
|Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport||1,332,680|
|Orlando Sanford International Airport||1,165,435|
|Northwest Florida Regional Airport (Eglin AFB)||800,000*|
|St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport||776,535|
|Tallahassee Regional Airport||684,916|
|Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (Panama City Beach)||677,587|
|Key West International Airport||566,889|
|Daytona Beach International Airport||476,558|
|Melbourne International Airport||345,399|
|Gainesville Regional Airport||298,504|
|Charlotte County Airport / Punta Gorda Airport||182,423|
|Source: Airports *Estimate. This list may not be reproduced in any format without written permission from the publisher.|
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