Most years, a top 10 South Florida export growing 1.63 percent from the previous year would be no cause for celebration. This year is not most years.
This year, South Florida’s exports to the world are down 8.65 percent through September, a percentage equal to $4.17 billion, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data. Worse, exports are off 18.80 percent from their peak just three years ago at this time.
If you subscribe to the notion that misery loves company, then South Florida, the nation’s 12th-ranked Customs district for overall trade, is in good company.
This is the fourth in a series of columns on South Florida’s top 10 exports. It follows similar series on its leading imports and top 10 trade partners.
The nation’s top-ranked Customs district, Los Angeles, is seeing a 10.67 percent decline in exports. No. 4 Detroit is off 9.55 percent. No. 5 Houston is down 14.69 percent. No. 7 New Orleans is down 13.13 percent. No. 11 San Francisco’s exports have dropped 8.99 percent compared to this same time last year. Not a lot of bright spots.
Looking at South Florida’s top exports, only three of the top 15 are in the black, two being No. 10-ranked motor vehicles and No. 11 motor vehicle parts.
So, in a year like this, you take what you can get. Medical device exports from South Florida, up 1.63 percent, are also in record territory.
First a definition. The category includes a wide range of medical devices, or instruments. It can be testing equipment like MRI and EKG machines, it can be needles and syringes, it can be surgical equipment and it can be dental equipment.
In the case of South Florida, the exports are dominated by surgical equipment and needles.
U.S. rank: As a U.S. export, in terms of ranking, the medical device category has remained remarkably steady. It ranks No. 10 this year, ranked No. 10 a year ago at this time, and No. 10 a decade ago. Nationally, these exports are down 1.56 percent this year while overall U.S. exports are off 6.07 percent.
Going back five years, medical device exports are up 20.14 percent while overall U.S. exports have increased 21.78 percent. Looking back a decade, medical device exports have increased 87.20 percent while overall exports are up 70.61 percent.
South Florida trade: The local story is a little more impressive. A decade ago, medical device exports were South Florida’s ninth most important export. Five years ago, they had advanced to No. 7. By last year, medical device exports ranked No. 5. And this year, only three other exports rank ahead of the category.
Not surprisingly, the growth rate has outpaced South Florida’s overall exports — as well as U.S. exports of medical devices. Over the last five years, South Florida’s total exports have increased a relatively unimpressive 3.22 percent while outbound medical device shipments have increased 23.92 percent, or about seven times as rapidly. Over the last decade, overall South Florida exports have increased 76.66 percent while medical device exports are up 194.93 percent.
Export markets: South Florida medical device exports have left for 134 nations so far this year, about two-thirds of the world’s nations, from No. 1 Brazil to No. 134 Iraq. For five of the last six years, Brazil has accounted for more than 30 percent of all South Florida exports at this time of the year. For the last three years, that percentage has been above 35 percent.
The last nation other than Brazil to account for more than 10 percent of South Florida exports was Venezuela, with 13.71 percent in 2012, which was down from 22.61 percent the year prior. In 2015, Venezuela is accounting for 3.25 percent of all South Florida exports.
Declines in exports to top-ranked Brazil ($13.52 million), No. 7 Venezuela ($14.50 million) and No. 6-ranked Dominican Republic ($12.42 million) are the largest declines this year.
The biggest growth market this year? Switzerland. Exports to the European nation have increased $36.99 million and it has advanced 15 positions to No. 8. Argentina, Germany and Costa Rica are also showing strong growth.
South Florida competition: A decade ago, South Florida ranked No. 8 for exports of medical devices. But, until the last couple of years, it has been a pretty good decade for Latin America’s economies, with relative political stability and some limited exceptions. Because of that South Florida now ranks fourth in the nation for these exports, trailing only Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles.
In the last decade, South Florida has exceeded New Orleans, Cleveland, Atlanta/Savannah and San Francisco. South Florida’s market share of 6.82 percent this year is second only to the 7.05 percent total in 2011.
Most of the exports shipped from South Florida fly rather than sail. Through the first nine months of 2015, 78.51 percent of the exports have departed from Miami International Airport, the highest percentage since 2004, when the total last topped 80 percent.
MIA ranks fourth nationally among the nation’s more than 450 airports, seaports and border crossings. Chicago’s O’Hare, Los Angeles International and New York’s JFK rank ahead of MIA. For four of the last five years, MIA has accounted for more than 5 percent of the nation’s total. MIA accounted for just 3.28 percent a decade ago.
O’Hare is the only airport — almost all of the leaders are airports with a few border crossings with Canada and Mexico also on the list — to have captured more than 10 percent of the national total since 2006.
Coming next: South Florida’s fifth most valuable export this year is gold. , a highly volatile commodity often tied to perceptions about the condition of the global economy.
Reach Ken Roberts, president of World City, at email@example.com. Twitter: @tradenumbers.
European markets join Latin nations with growth
September 2015 YTD
September 2015 YTD
Source: WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data