International Relations, Manufacturing Propel The Sunshine State

As the state with the fastest-growing population, Florida can focus on its manufacturing hubs to continue the state’s upward economic trend.

By Kari Williams
From the September / October 2023 Issue


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis proclaimed during his State of State address in March that the Sunshine State is No. 1—in new business formations and in economic growth, among other avenues.

And Business Facilities’ 2023 Rankings Report backs that up. Florida, as a whole, lays claim to the fastest-growing population, as well as the fastest-growing metro area in The Villages. It’s also in the Top 5 for electric-vehicle charging infrastructure and best business tax climate at the state level and Fort Lauderdale ranks No. 2 for best mid-sized business climate at the metro level.

But it’s the Top 10 global ranking for logistics leaders (Miami) that segues to Gov. DeSantis’ focus in the second quarter of 2023. At that time, he zeroed in on building international relationships.

In late April, he and other Florida leaders visited Japan and held a roundtable with Japanese business leaders to discuss business development in Florida.

Japan is the sixth-largest foreign investor in the Sunshine State, according to the governor’s office, “with more than 200 Japanese companies employing more than 22,000 Floridians with holdings totaling more than $5.2 billion.”

Florida economic growth
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis visits with business leaders in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo: Courtesy


DeSantis also explored the possibility of direct flights between Florida and Japan.

“Having more opportunities to travel between Florida and Japan can boost tourism and entrepreneurship and enhance relationships between businesses in Japan and those located in Florida,” Gov. DeSantis said.

Two of the state’s major airports are among the largest in the country, according to the governor’s office, with each bringing in roughly 50 million visitors in 2022.

Discussions of expanding Florida’s relationships with South Korea also occurred in April between Gov. DeSantis and Prime Minister Han Duck-Soo. Secretary of State Cord Byrd, who was part of those talks, said the Florida Department of State is “committed to ensuring that entrepreneurs in Korea” are aware of the ease of registering an entity in Florida.

South Korean companies like Hyundai Motor Group and Korean Airlines already have a presence in the state, and the merchandise-trade relationship between Florida and South Korea is in the Top 10 bilateral trade partners in the Asia and Middle East region, according to the governor’s office.

Closer to home, the Canadian-based software company WellnessLiving plans to lease a 4,000-square-foot site in Tampa’s Westshore District for its regional headquarters. Don Williams, WellnessLiving’s Chief Revenue Officer, said many people don’t realize Tampa is a fast-growing tech hub in the U.S.

WellnessLiving will bring up to 45 information technology and operations positions to the state, in addition to building relationships with area universities “to recruit new graduates,” according to the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council.

More than 40% of the city’s prospects, according to the Tampa Bay EDC, have been international companies “with strong activity coming from the UK and Canada.”

Manufacturing Growth In The Sunshine State

CBRE Vice Chair Jose Lobon said in a “2023 North America Industrial Big Box Review & Outlook” report that Florida has historically been a distribution hub to other markets in the southeast, but its position is changing.

“The flow of goods is now moving into Florida due to its nation-leading population growth,” Lobon said in the report. “Larger big-box facilities have performed well. Key sites are scarcer now because of competition from residential developers over strategic access to major interchanges. Investor interest in ground-up development, vacant shells, and stabilized product has significantly increased in Florida.”

Continuing the trend, Ocala was recently cited as an emerging industrial market, according to a CBRE Future Cities report.

“Logistics, location, and labor are the heartbeat of Ocala’s industrial market as Florida continues to experience significant growth,” CBRE Senior Vice President Rian Smith said in the report. “Ocala is benefiting from a massive influx of interest from developers and investors who are looking to expand their footprint and add sorely needed warehouse and distribution product to serve the region.

“Out-of-market developers, like Kansas City-based developer Hunt Midwest, are choosing Ocala for their first industrial project in Florida because they recognize the strength of the business environment. Furthermore, the market provides access to four of the state’s six major trucking arteries accounting for 70% of all truck traffic in Florida passing through the region.”

The environmentally focused Gary Plastic Packaging Company is among the companies relocating to Florida.

The New York-based organization plans to lease 279,000 square feet of a 400,000-square-foot building in Pasco County. The relocation will bring more than 500 jobs to the area over three years, according to the Pasco Economic Development Council.

The Pasco County Board of County Commissioners last December approved several incentives to bring the company to Florida.

Florida economic growth
Gary Plastic Packaging Company is relocating to Pasco County, FL, to lease a portion of a 400,000-square-foot building. The county’s Board of Commissioners approved incentives to bring the company to Florida. (Photo: Pasco EDC)

In Northwest Florida, Central Moloney, Inc. has planned for two manufacturing facilities—one in Panama City, which was announced in January 2022, and a second in Crewstview (announced in July). The Arkansas-based company, which distributes transformers and transformer components, anticipates employing more than 500 people between both locations.

“Through both manufacturing locations, a total of 830 direct, indirect, and induced jobs are projected to be created, equaling over $46.7 million in new salaries because of the ripple effect of this high-impact industry,” said Jennifer Conoley, President and CEO of Florida’s Great Northwest.

Meanwhile, the advanced manufacturing industry also will bring its wares to the area. Oregon-based Rogue Valley Microdevices acquired a 50,000-square-foot commercial building in Palm Bay for its second microfabrication facility. The Florida expansion is the culmination of a “multi-year search” for the right location, according to Jessica Gomez, Founder and CEO of Rogue Valley Microdevices.

“The Space Coast is a hub of scientific and technical innovation, which makes it an ideal location for us,” she said. “We’re equally excited at the level of community support we’ve already received from both the city of Palm Bay and from the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.”

Florida Florida Has Broad Benefits For Business

Florida offers incentives to all industries that want to take advantage of the Sunshine State’s robust infrastructure. Read more…

Other businesses breaking into the state include Pitney Bowes (Tampa) and Lynx Automation (Tampa Bay).

CBRE Executive Vice President David Murphy said in the “2023 North America Industrial Big Box Review & Outlook” report that Central Florida’s demand from the industrial warehouse and logistics industries continues to rise due to its location.

“Improved road linkages throughout Central Florida, including a widening of I-4 and the completion of Orlando’s Western Beltway (SR 429), are driving new development opportunities,” he said.

Plus, the region’s local warehouse labor force is expected to increase more than 10% over the next decade, the CBRE report stated.

Check out all the latest news related to Florida economic development, corporate relocation, corporate expansion and site selection.


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