May 30, 2023

Editor's Page

Florida's Trade MVP

Mark R. Howard | 10/27/2021

Today, Enterprise Florida can offer support services to companies in every county in the state and organizes 30 to 40 international events each year to connect Florida firms with overseas customers. About 60% of Florida’s exports — twice the national average — are produced by small and medium-sized firms. In total, around 58,000 firms from all over Florida now export about $100 billion in goods and services abroad each year, compared to just $2 billion in the 1970s. “Exporting has become a statewide game,” Mencia says.

The impact of foreign trade on Florida is hard to overstate. Foreign direct investment and exports of goods and services currently account for about a quarter of all jobs in the state. Around 40% of what Florida produces is sold overseas, placing Florida in the top three in the country in what’s called “manufacturing export intensity” — the percentage of goods made in a state that are sold abroad. Mencia’s program has been honored with national-level awards and was the model when California reworked its own international business development efforts.

Mencia’s advice to Florida and EF going forward is to focus on export diversification and new markets in Europe, Asia and Africa while maintaining Florida’s dominance in Latin America and the Caribbean. Things can change fast, he says, pointing out how quickly Miami surpassed New Orleans as Latin America’s gateway to the U.S. — and how Venezuela, a $5-billion market for Florida as recently as 2012, shrank to a $500-million market under that country’s inept political leadership.

Throughout his career, Mencia says, he never forgot a comment by a professor in college: “Geography is destiny,” the professor said. Mencia says he “believed to his soul” that Florida’s location and multicultural demographics created a destiny for it as a great trade center. “Florida always had tremendous advantages, and that’s what I tried to leverage as I developed programs.”

— Mark Howard, Executive Editor


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