The state of Florida ranks number four in the United States for international trade and commerce, but we can move up in the rankings, perhaps even to number one.
As chair of the Florida Ports Council, I recently joined Gov. Rick Scott and 200 political and business leaders from throughout Florida as part of a statewide effort to promote bilateral trade with Colombia, one of our strongest Latin American allies. The trip was one of the largest trade missions undertaken by our state with participation from an impressive roster of business interests throughout Florida. It will surely pay dividends given the recently enacted Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia — preliminary numbers show that trade is already up.
The Colombia trade mission underscores the growing partnership between public and private sector interests which have joined forces to make increased trade the focus of a strategic, statewide effort to diversify Florida’s economy and create much needed permanent and well-paying jobs. As chair of the Florida Ports Council, I applaud this effort.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Trade and Logistics Study states: “Florida has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fundamentally transform its economy by diversifying beyond its traditional industries — tourism, real estate and agriculture — and become a hub for international trade and logistics.”
We are fortunate to have a governor who recognizes the potential for growth and the important role of our state’s 15 deep-water seaports in capturing new trade opportunities. Today, cargo-related activity at Florida seaports generates more than 550,000 direct and indirect jobs and contributes $66 billion in economic value to the state. These numbers are expected to grow exponentially in coming years as Florida plays a larger, more commanding role in the global marketplace.
South Florida will play an all important role. Combined, PortMiami and Port Everglades recorded nearly two million TEUs (a cargo measure equivalent to a 20-foot container) last year, making the region one of the largest for sea cargo import-export in the nation.
Thanks to our dredging project, Miami will be the only U.S. port south of Norfolk, Va., at 50 feet deep and able to accommodate the new larger container vessels when the expanded Panama Canal opens in 2015. Also underway are the new tunnel to improve traffic flow and the re-introduction of on-port rail.
As the fastest growing business and consumer market in the U.S., and at the crossroads of growing North-South and East-West trade lanes, opportunity is at hand for our port and our state.
Bill Johnson, director, PortMiami