by Jeff Zbar
The 120 miles separating Florida City in Miami- Dade County north through Broward County to the city of Tequesta in Palm Beach County, respectively the state’s three most populace counties and collectively known as “Florida’s Gold Coast,” has become a global destination for business, trade, travel, and tourism.
With 6.1 million people, the more than 100 cities in the Miami MSA include such destinations as Miami, Coral Gables, Miramar, Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, and West Palm Beach. A more than $350 billion combined gross regional product puts it among the world’s top 40 economies. It’s the second-largest international banking center in the U.S., and more than 1,400 multinational companies are at home in the “tricounty” region — a destination whose 75 foreign consulates and trade offices are second most in the country.
What makes South Florida a thriving destination for international business? Whether U.S. companies are seeking a base to reach the world, or the world needs an address to reach North America, or just as a waypoint for travelers and trade, Southeast Florida has built its name as the “Gateway to the Americas,” — and increasingly, the world.
The region’s international business is as robust as it is varied. Beyond English, languages spoken at the Sawgrass Mills outlet mall in suburban Sunrise include Spanish, Brazilian, Portuguese, and increasingly Arabic, Chinese, and Hindi — especially since airline Emirates launched nonstop service between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Dubai three years ago.
Though a thriving market for domestic commerce, what sets South Florida apart is its international trade. Business touches retail, professional services, media, marketing, health care, and shipping and logistics coming through its three seaports and half-dozen airports.
Speaking of global tongues, South Florida is home to both domestic and international divisions of Spanish-language broadcasters Univision Communications and NBC Universal Telemundo, as well as HBO Latin America.
Each county has lured prominent international companies. In Palm Beach County, international companies include Japan’s TBC Corporation, German grocer Aldi, and Swiss watch maker Ulysse Nardin, says Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the Business Development Board (BDB) of Palm Beach County, who travels regularly on international missions with Enterprise Florida to attract interest in its global aviation/aerospace, manufacturing, logistics, and technology clusters. The BDB has had a full-time Enterprise Florida international trade representative on site for over a decade.
Among the most recent international arrivals into Broward County include Brazilian boat manufacturer DGS Defense; Ecolab Inc., with its new Latin America regional headquarters; Chiquita Brands International Inc.; Germany-based Sixt rent a car; KEMET Electronics Corporation; and most recently, the U.S. headquarters for Hong Kong-based Techtronic Industries, maker of such houseware and hardware brands as Milwaukee Tool, Ryobi, Hoover, Oreck, and Vax.
“South Florida’s strategic position, multicultural workforce, and numerous connections to international markets make this an ideal place for companies to do business,” says Bob Swindell, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance. “It’s also a location of choice with low barriers to entry for international businesses looking to expand into the U.S.”
For employers exploring a destination for international business, whether an American or international company seeking a U.S. headquarters or base of regional operations, South Florida presents a market that’s rife with golden opportunities.
It is a region with millions of multicultural workers and workforce development professionals ready for the trained workforce, says Michael Finney, president and CEO of the Beacon Council, the official economic development organization for Miami-Dade County.
“We’re much stronger when we represent the total economic capability of our region and talent base,” he says.
For executives hoping to relocate their companies or lives to the region, Florida has no personal income tax — as the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance calls it, “Life Less Taxing.”
With its tax benefits, a solid workforce, hemispheric and global headquarters, and international doors open across the region, South Florida is golden for companies hoping to go global.