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Finding opportunities for Florida/International Trade

The Florida Chamber Foundation recently released an update to its 2010 Florida Trade and Logistics Study. The report examines whether Florida has made progress in its trade and logistics infrastructure and in preparing to take advantage of opportunities presented by the expansion of the Panama Canal. It also looks at how Florida can do more, especially to export more. Tony Carvajal, the foundation’s executive vice president, and Alice Ancona, the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s director of global outreach, talk about Florida’s trade prospects.

Florida Trend: Why does the expansion of the Panama Canal present such an urgent opportunity for Florida?

Tony Carvajal: It is about to shift 150 years’ worth of transportation patterns in this country. You miss this window, and you miss it for a generation. Once the infrastructure is raised, once the goods are being transported through certain sectors of the Eastern Seaboard, that’s going to be the traffic pattern for at least a generation.

FT: What is the top takeaway from the new report?

Carvajal: A strong call for manufacturing more in Florida. We have the capacity to manufacture in this state, but we’ve got to change our focus. The constant problem that we have is that most of those (ships, airplanes, trucks and trains) come into Florida full and leave either half or completely empty. Even if we enhance our infrastructure, if we are ready for more things to come into Florida — unless we actually make more in Florida and fill those vehicles and those containers up, we still aren’t going to make many gains.

FT: The report also calls for creating a trade and logistics institute. Why is that?

Carvajal: What we’re talking about is becoming the No. 1 state in the country for training trade, logistics and manufacturing talent and even creating a maritime academy so that we can build on one of the sectors that is already here. Not only will we need trained people, but I also think that they attract markets. It’s a competitive advantage.

FT: What are the Florida Chamber’s trade-related advocacy priorities?

Alice Ancona: Engaging to promote free trade agreements that will help us move more cargo through here and diversify our economy and work with a larger number of trade partners.

Carvajal: Supporting economic development programs, supporting Department of Transportation programs. And you’ll probably see us pushing to make the manufacturing tax cut a permanent solution. Also, funding of the Quick Response Training Program, a little more tourism marketing, marketing assistance for airports trying to get more international flights.

JAPAN -- Expanding Opportunities

Florida’s links with Japan date back at least as far as the early 20th century, when Florida authorities and Henry Flagler recruited young Japanese men in an attempt to create a farming community in southeast Florida. The Yamato Colony never truly got off the ground, and World War II put an end to all efforts. Eventually, the land on which it sat became the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. The 2010 Census showed about 13,224 people of Japanese descent still in the state.

Japan, meanwhile, is one of only two countries outside of Latin America among Florida’s top 10 trading partners (along with Switzerland). Ninety-two percent of the $7.3 billion in trade that the state conducted with its No. 8 trading partner in 2012 was in imports. In fact, the Asian nation ranks behind only China among top import sources into Florida, and the value of those imports rose by nearly 20% during 2012. Some 78% of those imports are cars and trucks.

As a first step toward expanding the relationship, Gov. Rick Scott led a small trade mission to the nation in November — making him the first sitting governor to visit Japan in 16 years. Economic development officials hope renewed relationship-building efforts will lead to more foreign direct investment in Florida from Japanese companies, an estimated 119 of which already have operations in the state.

Trade Numbers

  • $132 billion — Value of international trade through Florida’s airports and seaports
  • $97 billion — Value of Florida-origin exports from the state: $66 billion in goods, $31 billion in services
  • 60,000 — Number of exporting companies
  • $11 billion — Increase in value of goods exported by Florida companies from 2010 to 2012
  • 15 — Ports
  • 19 — Commercial service airports
  • 512,000 — Jobs in the transportation, trade and logistics sector — paying 30% more than the statewide average Source: Florida Trade and Logistics Study 2.0


ARGENTINA — Argentine art dealer Daniel Maman will open his first U.S. gallery, Maman Gallery, in Miami’s Design District.

CUBA — Tampa International Airport became only the second U.S. city (besides Miami) to offer direct flights to three Cuban cities when ABC Charters added flights to Santa Clara’s Abel Santamaria Airport to its existing flights to Havana and Holguin. >> The Cuban government announced that it plans to end the two-tier currency system that has been in place since 1994. The system divided the nation’s currency into the convertible peso, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar and used for tourist and foreign-trade transactions, and the national peso, which most Cubans use. The convertible peso is the only currency most stores and restaurants accept. It is worth 25 times more than the national peso but is accessible almost exclusively to Cubans with official ties or those in the tourist industry who receive tips.

GUINEA — Leone Asset Management, based in Panama City Beach, purchased Guinea Investment Bank of Guinea in West Africa. The company will change the bank’s name to JP Anderson to continue the branding and expansion of Leone Asset’s subsidiary JP Anderson in West Africa.

ITALY — West Palm Beachbased sugar refiner and marketer ASR Group purchased 50% of Italybased SFIR Raffineria di Brindisi, Europe’s secondlargest sugar cane refinery, from ED&F Man. It also purchased half of Euro SFIR Italia, which sells sugar from the refinery in Italy. ASR is owned by Florida Crystals and Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.

LATIN AMERICA — Technology conference eMerge Americas, which will be held in May in Miami Beach, will host the region’s top technology incubators and accelerators for a Demo Day Challenge. Participants will include NXTP Labs from Argentina, 21212 from Brazil, Startup Chile, INNpulsa and HubBog from Colombia and Angel Ventures of Mexico.

MEXICO — Miami Lakesbased ERBA Diagnostics, which develops and sells invitro diagnostics equipment, opened a subsidiary in Mexico City, where it anticipates that the market for diagnostics will grow at about 15% per year.

QATAR — Qatar Airways will begin four weekly nonstop flights between Miami International Airport and Doha, Qatar, in June. The airline serves only five other cities in the U.S. — none of them in the southeastern part of the country.


IE University, one of Spain’s most highly regarded business schools, plans to launch an advanced management executive education program in Miami this year. The for-profit school will conduct the program in both Spanish and English.

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