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Trade Surplus in the Sunshine State


Florida’s total merchandise trade exceeded $130 billion in 2008, a 13.7% increase over the previous year.

The latest statistics on Florida’s imports and exports reveal significant increases in overall trade. Here are some of the relevant statistics in 2008:

Total merchandise trade—imports and exports—reached $130.5 billion, a 13.7% increase above the 2007 total. Merchandise exports reached $73 billion, an increase of 23.9% over 2007. Florida imports gained 2.9%, totaling $57.5 billion, while U.S. imports grew by 7.3% last year.

The Miami Customs District had the largest trade surplus—$19.6 billion more in exports than imports—among all 59 U.S. Customs Districts. Manny Mencía, who heads Enterprise Florida’s international business, emphasizes that trade and foreign investment support employment in every area of the state. In 2008, jobs sustained by exports of goods totaled 596,992.

“We surpassed Illinois by the end of October, positioning Florida as the fifth largest export state,” Mencia says. Florida’s top five export destinations have been Brazil, Venezuela, Canada, Mexico, and Colombia. Exports have included computers, electrical machinery, optical equipment and aircraft parts.

RAISING THE BIOTECH BAR

In February, Florida Governor Charlie Crist cut the ribbon to officially open The Scripps Research Institute’s Scripps Florida, a 350,000-square-foot biomedical research facility in Jupiter.

“The opening of Scripps Florida marks an important milestone in the Sunshine State’s development as a biotech hub and as a global leader in medical research and development,” said Gov. Crist.

Nearly 300 faculty members and staff currently work at the facility. Scripps Florida will create 6,500 new jobs during the next 15 years. An analysis conducted by two of Florida’s top economists predicts the Scripps facility will generate about $1.6 billion in additional income to Floridians and boost the state’s Gross Domestic Product by $3.2 billion by 2025.

Scripps Florida’s three primary areas of focus are biomedical research, advanced technologies and drug discovery. Scripps researchers are targeting diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and autism.

To date, total investment in Scripps Florida from the state and from Palm Beach County has been nearly $500 million, which is going toward construction of the new campus, recruitment of top scientists from around the world, and start-up costs plus salaries, benefits, and equipment through 2013. To date, Scripps Florida has been awarded more than $50 million in outside grants and filed more than 79 patent applications.

FLORIDA LAUNCHES INTERNATIONAL STIMULUS

The Florida International Stimulus Program was launched by Gov. Crist and Enterprise Florida to help accelerate the state’s economy by strengthening international trade and investment. More than one million jobs in the state are supported by exports of goods and services and employment by foreign-owned companies. The program encompasses four initiatives:

Florida First Sourcing Program—Enterprise Florida will increase business interaction among Florida companies by helping Florida exporters identify in-state suppliers for their export needs. A first for Florida, the program will promote in-state business by encouraging Florida trading companies and purchasing agents to buy Florida products rather than purchasing from other states to fill their export orders. Enterprise Florida will use its proven trade leads program and staff resources to administer the program.

Target Sector Trade Grants—These grants will be awarded to eligible small- and medium-sized companies on a reimbursable basis to enable them to participate in Enterprise Florida trade shows and selectU.S.-certified trade exhibitions in target sectors. Eligible recipients include manufacturers, R&D companies, and technology services providers in targeted industries, including: aviation/aerospace; clean energy; financial and professional services; homeland security and defense; information technology; life sciences; and targeted manufacturing, including the boating/marine sectors. In addition to Target Sector Trade Grants, Enterprise Florida offers a variety of export programs and services to Florida companies through its network of trade offices around the state.

Florida International Development Network Training—Enterprise Florida provides customized training on international trade and business development practices to economic development organizations serving small and mid-sized communities around the state. By enhancing their international development capacity, economic development organizations will be able to better support local companies engaged in international business and more effectively attract foreign direct investment to their regions.

DIVERSIFIED WORKFORCE IN LEESBURG

The City of Leesburg consists of approximately 24 square miles, with much of the area lying between Lake Griffin to the north and Lake Harris to the south. Hundreds of smaller lakes and ponds dot the local landscape. Located in sunny Central Florida, midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, Leesburg is situated just 80 miles northeast of Tampa, 70 miles southwest of Daytona Beach, and 40 northwest of Orlando. The city sits at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 441, U.S. Highway 27, and State Road 44.

Leesburg has a well-diversified workforce that is ready to lead the community into the new millennium. The Lake County workforce exceeds 86,000. The Metro-Orlando civilian labor force exceeds 845,000. Lake County has the best high school graduation rate in Metro Orlando. Sixty-eight percent of Leesburg workers reside in the city.

The Leesburg area boasts flexible and efficient multi-modal transportation, making it easily accessible by air, sea and land. The Leesburg Regional Airport has been designated a Gold Seal Airport by the Florida Department of Transportation, recognizing its high standards for infrastructure, service and safety to the flying public.

The City of Leesburg’s Economic Development staff works to provide expanding and new businesses with needed incentives and financing opportunities. Among the available incentives and financing options for development are:

• CDBG Infrastructure Grants—The Florida Department of Community Affairs administers the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, which provides $12 million to provide infrastructure to new or expanding businesses.
• Impact Fee Deferral Program—This program allows businesses to defer the Lake County Transportation Impact Fee over a period of time. The number of jobs created, the wages paid and other program requirements determine the time period.
• Impact Fee Financing Program—The program provides financing opportunities when the total of city impact fees reaches $20,000. The fee may be financed over five years with the interest being set at the prime rate.
• Job Growth Investment Trust Fund—Assists business expansion and relocation projects. Businesses can receive up to $2,500 per job created, if they meet specific program requirements. All jobs created for which assistance is requested must pay at least the annual median wage.
• Lake Technical Center Training Programs—The Lake County Public School Board offers training programs custom designed to meet a firm’s specialized needs.
• On-the-Job Training Program—Job Services of Florida will provide a reimbursement to businesses of up to 40% of wages paid to qualified employees when the company agrees to provide on-the-job training for eligible positions.
• Qualified Defense Contractor Tax Refund Program—The refund provides up to $5,000 per job created or saved in Florida through conversion of defense jobs to civilian production. Also qualifying are the acquisition of a new defense contract or the consolidation of a defense contract that results in at least a 25% increase in Florida employment or a minimum of 80 jobs.
• Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program—This program provides tax refunds to pre-approved applicants of up to $5,000 per new job created.
• Quick Response Training Program—Working with community colleges, vocational/technical centers, state universities and other institutions, the program provides start-up training tailored to a company’s needs.
• Small Business Technology Growth Fund—Provides financial assistance (loan guarantees, letters of credit) to Florida businesses with emerging technological potential and fewer than 100 employees.

CORPORATE MIRAMAR: WELL BALANCED

The city of Miramar boasts planned corporate campuses, designed expressly to meet the needs of clean industry, making it a preferred locale for major corporations and Fortune 500 companies.

During the past decade, high profile companies such as Mattel, GM, Disney, Carnival, Lucent, Humana, Parbel (L’Oreal), Elizabeth Arden, Clear Channel Communications, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, R.W.D.I., Spirit Airlines, and CBeyond have relocated and now call Miramar home.

In 2008, Liberty Property Trust completed construction of the first LEED-certified “green” building in Miramar. The city attracts large companies while assisting small businesses to expand Miramar’s economic base.

Miramar also has experienced significant growth and development in support businesses and services complementing corporate development. The number of hotels, restaurants, healthcare services and other commercial and municipal amenities in the city has increased. A prime example is Memorial Hospital Miramar, which is part of the South Broward Hospital District, Memorial Healthcare System. The Hospital District’snew 239,000-square-foot, 128-bed hospital on 125 acres provides state-of-the-art healthcare services.

But the area is hardly all business; two of the world’s most famous recreational destinations, Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach, are nearby, and 12 major colleges and universities are within a few short miles.

At the center of this growth and continuous improvement is the new Miramar Town Center, a public/private partnership between the City of Miramar, The Rockefeller Group and Kimco Developers Inc. Miramar Town Center offers a new City Hall, Cultural Center, County Library and branch campuses of Broward College and Nova Southeastern University. An office-retail residential phase of Town Center is complete and further development is ongoing.

As an economic development strategy, the attraction of additional commercial, industrial and office space will give Miramar’s anticipated 140,000 total residents a business community that provides jobs and services to residents and the region. Annually, the city encourages the development of at least 500,000 square feet of commercial, industrial and office space in order to add five million square feet of such development within Miramar at build-out.

The downturn’s effect on South Florida’s real estate market in 2008 is well documented. Yet the Miramar Park of Commerce has defied the trend by signing 50 lease transactions totaling more than one million square feet (valued at more than $40 million) during 2008. This is only the second time in its 25-year history that the Park reached these milestones. Miramar is the only city in Florida which has seen growth of at least 10% each decade since 1970.

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