Florida is a dynamic center of international commerce, and the location of some of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. The state occupies a strategic footprint at the crossroads of the America’s that almost seems designed to be the ideal international shipping and export hub. Florida’s diverse economy and extensive global reach make it a focal point for foreign investment, and a major trade-hub for technology, banking, tourism and healthcare services. According to the International Trade Administration, combined international exports of merchandise and services from the state came to $64 billion in 2011. A 2010 report published by the International Business Council of Florida showed that goods valued at close to $126 billion entered and exited the US through Florida’s two Custom Districts on their way to both domestic and foreign markets throughout the world.
The pool of talented international business professionals in Florida is one of the best in the nation, as the state is home to more than 100 colleges and universities, many of which are business schools preparing some of the country’s most promising international business majors. The state ranks sixth in the nation in terms of the number of international students, with nearly 30,000 from around the world enrolled in Florida’s colleges and universities in recent academic years.
Hub of Global Commerce
Referred to as the “innovation hub of the Americas”, Florida ranks third in the United States as a center for high-tech exports, shipping some $14 billion in consumer electronics, high-tech industrial manufacturing components and medical imaging equipment each year.
Florida-based businesses have come to rely on the state’s well-developed infrastructure and favorable regulation for continued growth into international markets. The state maintains more than 14 bustling deepwater seaports and more than fifty multimodal connectors, which are designated areas where two forms of transportation come into contact for shipping purposes. Florida is also home to 30 airports certified for air carrier operations that support the massive amount of international airfreight cargo that moves through the state each day.
There are 20 designated Foreign Trade Zones (FTZ) located throughout Florida, including the second largest of its kind in the United States. These FTZs allow tax and tariff relief for Florida-based companies that rely on components and materials from foreign markets. Operating through these FTZs helps control the cost of doing business across national boarders, which has helped Florida become one of the most desirable locales in the US for international business operations.
According to the Florida International Bankers Association, Miami is second only to New York as the international financial and banking center of the United States. Miami is home to corporate offices for 80 of the foreign and domestic banks most active in international banking, including six of the ten largest banks in the world.
Florida’s International Trade Partners
As the fourth largest exporter in the country, foreign trade is central to Florida’s economy. Florida’s export base is highly diversified, with no fewer than 37,000 Florida-based companies exporting goods and services around the world. Of these, 96% were classified as small to medium sized.
Florida’s number one trade partner is Switzerland. In 2011, businesses based in the state shipped merchandise exports totaling $7.3 billion to Switzerland, which accounted for more than 10% of the state’s total exports that year.
Behind Switzerland as Florida’s top trade partners were the large South American markets of Brazil, which imported $5.3 billion in merchandise from Florida in 2011, Venezuela with $4.5 billion, and Colombia with $2.8 billion in imports from Florida that year.
International Business Jobs in Florida
Florida is serious about attracting foreign multinationals. In fact, some 1,500 foreign-affiliated companies already established in the state currently employ more than a quarter million Florida residents. According to the most recent report published by Enterprise Florida, the state’s foremost economic development organization, total holdings by multinational firms in the state were estimated at $36 billion, making Florida the number one recipient of direct foreign investment in the country.
Among these foreign-owned companies with operations in Florida is ASO Corporation, a medical product manufacturer based in Japan. According to the Herald-Tribune, ASO employs more than 250 workers, including operations managers and corporate staff, at its 150,000 square foot manufacturing plant in Sarasota. ASO plans to expand the plant to 174,000 square feet in 2012, and add at least 50 more jobs.
Bpb America is a commercial and residential construction products exporter now owned by Saint-Gobain, a French multinational that employs more than 180,000 people around the world. Bpb America and affiliated companies operate corporate offices in both Jacksonville and Tampa.
Other multinationals with a major presence in Florida include Inter Continental Hotels of the United Kingdom, Siemens Information and Communication of Germany, as well as Japanese electronics giant Sony.
Both foreign and domestically-based global giants in the world of international commerce continue to seek a talented workforce prepared for doing business on a global scale, and routinely recruit cultural advisors and liaisons, foreign market analysts and marketing managers, international business managers and management consultants, accountants versed in International Financial Reporting Standards, logisticians and operations managers, as well as trade specialists and import compliance officers, among others.
Making International Business Contacts in Florida
Florida offers a number of resources for business owners seeking information on international business opportunities: