Business Monday

MIA, S. Fla. dominate state’s imports, exports

Ken Roberts
Ken Roberts

Trade is up more than 100 percent at the Port of St. Petersburg near Tampa. And, just a short drive south of there, at the port at Boca Grande on Florida’s Gulf Coast, it’s up more than 1,000 percent this year.

It barely matters.

They are two of the 24 airports and seaports in Florida that have reported import and export trade through the first nine months of 2014, according to WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. But they are the bottom two. Statistically, they account for 0.0005 percent of all Florida trade. A rounding error, in other words.

At the top are Miami International Airport, which alone accounted for 40.55 percent of all Florida import-export trade in 2014, followed by Port Everglades at 17.50 percent, and PortMiami at 15.35 percent.

Those three alone make up 73.40 percent of all statewide trade.

If you consider the South Florida Customs district — one of two districts in the state that includes the top three plus the ports of Palm Beach and Key West — you have 76.46 percent.

All of the other airports and seaports are part of what has come to be known, over the years, as the Tampa Customs district. The Port of Jacksonville has come to dominate the district, and in all our TradeNumbers publications we call it the Jacksonville/Tampa Customs district in a nod to that fact.

The Port of Jacksonville, which is one of the nation’s leading seaports for motor vehicle exports and imports, ranks fourth in the state, immediately after the South Florida triumvirate and within striking range of PortMiami for the first time since 2008, when it last ranked No. 3.

Put all of Florida’s ports together — from Miami International Airport at the top to the Port of St. Petersburg at the bottom — and the state moves 3.90 percent of all U.S. trade through the first nine months of the year. While that’s on the high end of where the state has been for the last decade, it is the first dip below 4 percent since this time in 2010.

It’s dipping because the movement of exports and imports through Florida is decreasing, down 3.85 percent through September, while U.S. trade is up 3.38 percent. Looking at a longer horizon, Florida trade and U.S. trade are closely matched over the five-year period, with the state up 58.65 percent and the nation up 56.90 percent. Over the last decade, Florida has performed better, up 94.58 percent compared to 76.59 percent for the United States.

As goes MIA, so goes the state, of course.

Miami International Airport has accounted for more than 40 percent of all statewide trade for five consecutive years, barely missing that total in 2009, when it accounted for 39.93 percent, according to the most recent data.

The only other port to have reported more than just 20 percent — half of that — in the last decade is PortMiami, which registered 23.69 percent in 2004 and 22.92 percent in 2005.

The only port outside of South Florida to have ever registered more than 10 percent is the Port of Jacksonville, which was at a record 18.98 percent of all Florida trade through the first nine months of 2006 but has fallen to 14.96 percent this year, as MIA has consolidated its dominance of import-export trade.

This year, however, MIA’s trade is down 8.89 percent. That’s a $4.56 billion decrease, and the bulk of the $4.61 billion decline for the state.

As has been noted in previous columns, most of the decline at MIA this year is giving back some of the significant gains as gold prices soared — MIA became a leading import and export hub nationally, linking South America and Mexico with Switzerland — and a sudden drop as Intel transitioned from manufacturing in Costa Rica to Asia.

Primarily because of those two forces, MIA has slipped below 40 percent this year. PortMiami’s trade is also down so far this year, off 4.72 percent, equal to $876 million. Among the big three, only Port Everglades is in the black, with its trade up $1.26 billion, or 6.69 percent.

Also down is MIA’s trade surplus, which has traditionally carried the state, either coming close to the state’s surplus or, in a number of years, covering the deficit by the rest of the state’s airports and seaports.

So far this year, MIA’s surplus — exports exceeding imports — is $9.87 billion; the state’s is less, at $5.67 billion, the largest divergence since 2007. Port Everglades, for the first time since 2007, has slipped into a deficit, with imports $213.38 million greater than exports. PortMiami has the state’s largest deficit, at $1.62 billion, its largest since the first nine months of 2005. PortMiami’s trade with China has increased sharply over that time.

Nevertheless, at a time when the U.S. trade deficit is $540.30 billion, a trade surplus in Florida and South Florida is something of a rarity.

Not surprisingly, given the trade surplus generated by MIA, South Florida and Florida, Florida captures a larger percentage of U.S. exports than it does total trade. For the last nine years, the state has moved more than 5 percent of all U.S. exports, though that percentage has drifted to its lowest level in all those years this year, at an even 5 percent. The high point was just two years ago, in 2012, when the total was 5.83 percent. The total for all exports and imports — total trade — was 3.90 percent.

As with total trade, as goes MIA, so goes the state. Here MIA’s dominance is even greater, making up 46.82 percent of the state’s exports to the world. In 2012, it flirted with accounting for a majority, with 49.30 percent.

And what of that 1,041 percent increase at the port at Boca Grande, a pleasant tourist destination on Gasparilla Island, not far from Fort Myers? It was due to $142,223 in eyeglass frames imported from China in March — an increase from zero the previous year — adding significantly to the total trade.

Ken Roberts is the founder and president of WorldCity, a Coral Gables-based company that pays attention to the impact of globalization on local communities. More import-export trade data is available at He can be reached at

MIA, Everglades, PortMiami lead state’s ports


in rank


Total Trade

September 2014 YTD

1-year change

1-year change

10-year change

10-year change


Total U.S. trade

$ 2,957,917,908,658






Total, All Florida Ports

$ 115,260,395,040







Miami International Airport

$ 46,742,561,398







Port Everglades

$ 20,167,634,458








$ 17,693,071,844







Port of Jacksonville

$ 17,246,738,537







Port Tampa Bay

$ 3,625,209,031







Port Panama City

$ 2,372,267,322







Port of Palm Beach

$ 1,813,033,840







Ft. Lauderdale International Airport

$ 1,690,113,668







Orlando International Airport

$ 1,583,914,714







Port Canaveral

$ 1,005,517,552







Port Manatee

$ 496,343,245







Port of Pensacola

$ 470,027,462







Port of Fernandina

$ 94,062,658







Orlando-Sanford Airport

$ 67,968,231







Port of Fort Pierce

$ 56,840,879





SOURCE: WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data