Updated 11 months ago
Gov. Rick Scott in March directed the Department of Transportation to give the Port of Miami the $77 million it needs to dredge its harbor to 50 feet to accommodate post-Panamax ships. Legislation eliminates redundant state security requirements for port workers and mandates creation of a statewide transportation plan identifying road, port and rail needs.
A Bright Spot — With Challenges
The recession ended early for international trade, and the sector continues to perform well even as much of Florida's economy continues a slow slog out of the recession. In 2010, Florida-origin exports grew to an all-time high of $55.2 billion. Trade in goods and services plus direct foreign investment now accounts for 16% of Florida's economy and supports one in five jobs.
Foreign trade isn't just a sandbox for big firms. Florida's small and midsized businesses account for more than half of the export trade, finding markets for their products abroad even as the domestic economy lags.
For all the good news, the state will have to work hard to keep its edge. Following are snapshots of the major trends and challenges facing the international trade sector moving into the second half of 2011.
|Seaport||Cargo (tons, 2010)||Cruise Passengers (2010)|
|Port of Tampa||37,148,407
|Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale)
|Port Manatee (Palmetto)
|Port of Miami-Dade
|Port Canaveral (Cape Canaveral)
|Port of Palm Beach (Riviera Beach)
|Port Panama City
|Port of Fernandina
|Port of Fort Pierce
|Port of Pensacola
|Port of Key West
|Port St. Joe Marina (Port St. Joe)2
|Port of St. Petersburg3||0||0|
|Ranked by cargo tonnage. 1Estimate 2 Deals with wet-slip and dry-slip customers only. 3Deals with large private yachts and research vessels only. ©Copyright 2011 Trend Magazines Inc. This list may not be reproduced in any format without written permission from the publisher.|
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It's a conundrum that leaves state trade officials shaking their heads — despite the success and capacity of Florida's ports, many Florida businesses continue to use out-of-state ports such as those in Savannah, Ga., Charleston, S.C., and Norfolk, Va., to ship and receive goods.
"There are significant opportunities that are bypassing Florida today."
— Phil Allen, Port Everglades director/chairman of the Florida Ports Council
Meanwhile, imports from Latin America that could come into Florida and then make their way to the rest of the U.S. are coming into Houston and L.A. According to a report by the Florida Chamber Foundation, Florida seaports in 2009 handled only 55% of the waterborne cargo imports that were used in this state and 75% of the exports produced here. Panama's Colon Free Zone grabs some transshipment business that Florida could handle, and at least one port in the Bahamas can already handle the post-Panamax container ships for which Florida ports are too shallow.
Three Florida ports are among the top 15 exporting ports in the U.S.:
Port Everglades ($11.1 billion in exports in 2010)
Port of Miami ($10.3 billion in exports)
Jaxport ($9.2 billion in exports)
Source: Port Everglades
Trade Math, 2010
Florida-origin exports: $55.2 billion, a record (up 17.8% from 2009)
+ Other exports: $17.8 billion
+ Imports: $53.2 billion (up 23%)
= Total trade: $126.2 billion (up 23%)
Source: Enterprise Florida
|Florida Free Trade Zones|
|Name||Federal Zone #|
|Brevard County/Port Canaveral||136|
|Port Everglades/Broward County||25|
|Port of Palm Beach||135|
|Port of Pensacola||249|
|Port Panama City||65|
|St. Lucie County||218|
|Listed alphabetically. This list may not be reproduced in any format without written permission from the publisher.|
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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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