Florida: An International Gateway To Growth

Florida’s 15 deep-water seaports and 19 commercial airports are the entry points for a vast international trade infrastructure.

By the BF Staff
From the July/August 2021 Issue

In 2019, Florida companies exported $56 billion worth of goods to more than 200 countries around the world. With unparalleled access to markets worldwide, the state’s 15 deep-water seaports and 19 commercial airports bring the world to Florida and take your products to every corner of the globe.

Florida has a natural advantage in exporting knowledge-intensive services, with its extensive global ties, linguistically diverse population and service-intensive economy. High value-added services such as accounting, communications, consulting, engineering, financial, legal, medical and many others are in great demand.

Florida’s vast international commerce infrastructure includes the ready availability of trade financing, international legal and insurance services, freight forwarding and logistics, distribution and warehousing and related services. The state’s international business community enjoys access to the second largest Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) network in the country, where value can be added to foreign goods tariff-free before shipping them on to another country.

In November 2019, on behalf of Florida’s 15 seaports, the Florida Ports Council (FPC) entered into a Letter of Intent (LOI) with the Coordination of Ports and Merchant Marine (Coordinadora de Puertos) of Mexico to maintain relations that promote international commerce and economic development. The Coordination of Ports and Merchant Marine is an agency of the Ministry of Communications and Transportation of Mexico that strengthens the international development of maritime ports, export promotion, international commerce and the internal market.

Florida is a leading global trade hub and Mexico is its second largest trading partner. In 2018, trade between Mexico and Florida reached $10.8 billion. With this growth trend, ports of Florida and Mexico have an opportunity to expand ocean carrier services.

Enterprise Florida’s six trade offices around the state assist Florida businesses with developing new international markets and exporting their products and services around the globe. Free export counseling is available for Florida manufacturers, export intermediaries and services providers.

Florida offers a number of trade grants to help companies grow their export sales through international activities, including trade shows, trade missions, Gold Key-Matchmaker programs, Export Marketing Plans, website localization and obtaining international registrations. Eligible small and medium-sized manufacturers and professional services providers will find that these grants are the tools that help them succeed overseas.

Review the steps and grants below to get started exporting from Florida.


Hernando County, on the west coast of Florida in the Tampa Bay Region, welcomes you with the perfect blend of business relocation, expansion and lifestyle opportunities. Availability, affordability, accessibility and community, that’s what it’s all about.

The Brooksville–Tampa Bay Regional Airport & Technology Center (BKV) delivers an abundance of opportunity just 40 minutes north of Tampa International Airport. Perfect for aviation-related businesses, the airport features a 7,000ft ILS equipped primary runway (with plans to extend to 8,000ft), an air traffic control tower, airside development parcels and CSX rail access sites with sidings in place. The Technology Center is a premier business location and the epicenter of economic development in Hernando County. An expansive 2,400-acres, this master planned campus boasts features that include available manufacturing buildings, 1,000+ acres of land for development, sites with direct access for aircraft movement and parking and a Duke Energy Site Ready 285-acre parcel with infrastructure in place. With access to more than 300,000 workers within a 30-minute drive, a technical high school and adult education center just across the street, you can see why BKV is home to successful businesses such as Airdyne Aerospace, Pem-Air Turbine Engine Services, American Aviation Flight Academy, Accuform, Barrette Outdoor Living and Micro-Matic USA to name just a few.

On the east side of the county, just one mile from Interstate 75 and 40 miles from the Florida Turnpike, several hundred acres are ready for development. Situated on either side of a 1.5Msf Wal-Mart Distribution Center, these two sites are prime for manufacturing or logistics.

Accessibility and transportation are key to your business so, with five major highways crisscrossing Hernando County, shipping and receiving is a breeze. North-south routes include Interstate 75, U.S. 19, the Suncoast Parkway (FL589) and U.S. 41. The latter two run adjacent to the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Technology Center, providing a two-stop light connection to Tampa International Airport. I-75 is east of Brooksville and connects via central Florida’s major east-west artery, State Road 50.

A business-friendly community, Hernando County is committed to growing industry. The County has invested in the BKV Tech Center by providing infrastructure-ready sites for your business expansion needs. Road, water and sewer are available throughout the park; drainage and water retention are master-planned, affording significant construction savings. By combining State of Florida incentives, workforce training programs and a Rapid Response Permitting Program, Hernando County is the ideal place for your business to thrive.

Building the pipeline for your future workforce needs is a top priority in Hernando County and throughout the Tampa Bay Region. Relationships with the local school system and post-secondary institutions help to influence curriculum and workforce training programs to suit your specific business requirements. Partnerships with Pasco-Hernando State College, St. Leo University, University of South Florida, University of Florida and University of Central Florida, along with a robust technical high school and adult education institutions like SunCoast Technical Education Center ensures access to any business expertise you may require as well as a pool of well-trained and motivated employees.

“All work and no play makes …” for an impossibility in Hernando County. Recreational activities are so abundant and varied; it’s no wonder it is known as Florida’s Adventure Coast. Your employees and business associates will melt at the picture-perfect sunsets on the Gulf of Mexico, where the Hernando County coast will lure them to some of the best fishing, scalloping and shallow water boating in west central Florida. Inland, they will enjoy playing on championship golf courses and kayaking on a matrix of waterways. You may enjoy hiking, biking and horseback riding on some of Florida’s top-rated trails that meander through forests and nature preserves. For the more adventurous, spend the day in the trees and zip-line at FLG X Extreme Adventure Course or visit Croom Motorcycle Area and ride your ATV at this world-class compound. Find out why the Croom Motorcycle Area was once named “One of the 10 Coolest Places you’ve never heard of” by the World Wildlife Fund.

The metro markets of Tampa and Orlando are just a short drive away and residents in Hernando County have access to a wide range of professional sports venues, concert halls, cultural and fine arts, and some of the top-ranked beaches in the United States. Residents here enjoy big-city conveniences while living in an active suburban community where the cost of living consistently ranks lowest of Tampa Bay’s seven county region.

With a reputation as the most affordable county in the Tampa Bay Region and offering lifestyle choices from beaches to country club to ranches to historic homes, Hernando County has something for everyone. These assets, combined with a business-friendly government, available land and an abundant and well-trained workforce, make Hernando County a natural choice for business relocation and expansion.


Indian River County, FL—Vero Beach, Sebastian, Fellsmere—strikes a perfect balance between business and pleasure. Those who live, work or visit Florida’s Central East Coast experience safe and affordable communities, loaded with ecological, cultural, educational and technological amenities. Many corporate-level executives have located their companies to the area because of the executive’s positive vacation experience, or they may own a winter home on the Vero Beach barrier island.

Located on Florida’s east coast, midway between West Palm Beach and Cape Canaveral, Indian River County is within three hours of over 17 million consumers, or 90 percent of Florida’s population. It has easy access to markets but is far from urban sprawl, traffic and congestion. The county’s superb quality of life attracts innovative businesses and talented professionals from around the country and throughout the world. Advanced industries from aviation to aquaculture and emerging tech to healthcare benefit from a low cost of doing business and some of the lowest taxes in the nation.

Florida international trade
Indian River’s Chamber Manufacturing Bootcamp takes a tour of Girard Equipment, a manufacturer of pressurized valve caps for the tanker truck industry. (Photo: CareerSource Research Coast)

The Indian River Chamber of Commerce participates in the national ACCRA Cost of Living survey, comparing a variety of cost factors with 300 other markets throughout the country. Year-after-year, the Vero Beach-Sebastian area is typically on par, or slightly lower, with the national average of 100. The Chamber’s Economic Development Office maintains a cost-of-living calculator on its website, www.indianrivered.com.

Indian River County has hundreds of acres of low-cost land available for development, much of it located near I-95, a major north-south transportation route along the east coast—perfect for warehouse/distribution operations. The county offers competitive property tax rates, local incentives and no state income tax.

The Opportunity Zone initiative provides investors an even greater reason to consider Indian River County, as all properties west of I-95 in the County are designated as an Opportunity Zone. This includes the City of Fellsmere, a rural community in the northwestern portion of the county with thousands of acres of developable land and quick access to I-95.

Air transportation in the area is served by two general aviation airports which primarily cater to private and corporate aircraft. Sebastian Airport is home to Whelen Aerospace Technologies, a global leader in high-end lighting products for the aerospace industry. Vero Beach Regional Airport is home to Piper Aircraft, an internationally recognized manufacturer of small personal aircraft. The Vero Beach Airport is a full service Fixed Base Operator with a 7000-foot runway. Both airports have plenty of airside and non-aviation land available for future development.

The Vero Beach Airport welcomed Elite Airways several years ago, which offers direct non-stop commercial air service to Newark, NJ, along with seasonal routes to Ashville, NC and Portland, Maine. Additional commercial air service is provided by Melbourne International Airport, 35 miles to the north, Orlando International Airport located 90 minutes away and Palm Beach International Airport, an hour’s drive south. FEC Rail provides local freight service and runs along the eastern seaboard.

An available and trainable workforce of approximately 638,000 within an hour’s drive time adds to the county’s appeal as a desirable location. Indian River State College (IRSC) has five campuses located throughout the region, offering two-year and four-year degrees as well as a number of industrial and technical certifications. IRSC is quite successful in securing training grants for local employers.

The Indian River Chamber partnered with the local school district and CareerSource Research Coast, the region’s workforce organization, to launch a Manufacturing Boot Camp program. The program provides high school students who are not college-bound an opportunity to see the types of jobs and skills needed within the manufacturing industry—building up that workforce pipeline.


A large pool of skilled professionals, an inviting quality of life and one of the most competitive tax climates in America make Greater Fort Lauderdale one of the world’s most attractive business locations for companies of all sizes.

Greater Fort Lauderdale (metropolitan Broward County) is home to more than 200 corporate, international and regional headquarters operations, including AutoNation, Citrix, Hotwire Communications, JetBlue Travel Products, Kaplan Inc., Magic Leap, Microsoft and Spirit Airlines. It is the geographic and business center of South Florida.

U.S. and international companies appreciate Greater Fort Lauderdale’s strategic location and convenient access to global markets, a multilingual and multicultural professional workforce and numerous education and workforce training programs. Aviation, financial services, technology, life sciences, manufacturing and other knowledge-based companies benefit from the region’s large and growing pool of skilled, college-educated workers.

With a high quality of life, including a wide array of housing choices; excellent schools; and year-round golf, boating and other outdoor activities, Greater Fort Lauderdale offers an ideal location for CEOs, mid-level executives, entrepreneurs and all generations to work in the cloud and live in the sun. It’s an attractive region where life is less taxing—for many reasons.

Here are some of the top reasons major companies are choosing Greater Fort Lauderdale for their corporate or regional headquarters:

  • Experienced C-level executives, managers and supervisors.
  • A central location in the South Florida metropolitan statistical area (MSA), the largest in the Southeast.
  • A deep and diversified pool of tech talent, as well as state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure, including one of the world’s few Network Access Points.
  • A broad-based and diverse multilingual, multicultural workforce continuously enhanced through the education of 300,000 college students each year.
  • Access to both domestic and international markets with three international airports in close proximity, including convenient service to Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe.

Florida ranked fourth in the nation for business-friendly tax systems, according to the Tax Foundation’s 2021 State Business Tax Climate Index. Also, Florida is among seven states that levy no personal income tax.

South Florida has been designated a “megaregion of the future” and a driver of future U.S. economic growth. Inc. magazine has called the region “one of the most connected places on earth,” citing South Florida’s transportation connections and deep business and cultural ties to Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe. Overall, South Florida is the eighth largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the nation with 6.1 million residents—nearly one-third of Florida’s total population. Approximately 60 percent of the population is of prime working age.

Amazon is growing rapidly in Broward County, with last-mile distribution and logistics facilities including operations in: The City of Deerfield Beach with 275 new jobs and a capital investment of $32 million; The City of Fort Lauderdale with 350 new jobs and a capital investment of $40 million; The City of Miramar with 275 new jobs and a capital investment of $35 million; and The City of Pembroke Park with 300 new jobs and a capital investment of $40 million.

Other recent expansions include:

  • Bankers Healthcare Group, which specializes in financing for the medical industry, is making a $42 million capital investment in Miramar.
  • Publix Super Markets, is adding 265 new jobs and making a capital investment of $23.4 million in Deerfield Beach.
  • Shipmonk, a strategic logistics partner that includes warehousing, ecommerce fulfillment and distribution, is adding more than 400 jobs and investing $14 million in Fort Lauderdale.
  • Sintavia, which fabricates aviation parts using 3D metallic powder printing, is making a $16 million capital investment at its new manufacturing facility in Hollywood.
  • Spirit Airlines is investing $250 million in a new HQ campus in Dania Beach.
  • Techtronic Industries, a Hong Kong-based group of companies that includes iconic brands such as Milwaukee Tool, Ryobi, Hoover and Dirt Devil, relocated its U.S. headquarters to Fort Lauderdale.
  • PX, the maker of Bang energy drinks, is making a capital investment of $181 million in Pembroke Pines.

Want to learn more about Florida corporate expansion?

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