Trade and tourism have been mainstays of the Southeast Florida economy since the Henry Flagler extended the Florida East Coast Railway down the Atlantic Coast and built the Port of Miami. Today, trade and tourism are key drivers of the regional economy, with the region ranking first in the nation for the value of international cargo and the number of home-port cruise passengers, and among the top ten for international visitors, air passengers, number of containers handled, and the value of exports.
A global outlook is critical for any region to compete in the 21st century: By 2080 percent of the world’s purchasing power, 90 percent of economic growth, and 95 percent of consumers will live outside of U.S. borders. The widening of the Panama Canal, the continued growth of Latin American and Caribbean nations, and anticipated growth in Africa all will contribute to growing trade and travel volumes. With a location close to the junction of vital north-south and east-west trade lanes, Southeast Florida is well positioned to become an even more significant global hub.
Larger trade and visitors flows directly benefit Southeast Florida’s airports, seaports, and transportation and logistics industries. They also create opportunities throughout the economy, particularly for Southeast Florida agricultural producers, manufacturers, and service providers to sell goods and services overseas and become part of global supply chains. The U.S. Department of Commerce has estimated that export-oriented companies typically grow 15 percent faster and pay 15 percent higher wages than firms operating solely in the U.S. market.
To accomplish its global vision, the region in the near term should:
- Continue to advance key seaport, rail, and highway infrastructure investments to prepare for the anticipated growth in trade following the Panama Canal widening;
- Provide a unified voice in at the federal level to support continued development of free trade agreements and to address delays in customs, immigration, and inspection processes at seaport and airports;
- Collaborate on key infrastructure, land use, and economic development opportunities. The Southeast Florida Regional Freight Plan, under development by the Broward, Miami- Dade, and Palm Beach MPOs with FDOT and other partners, provides a forum for regional collaboration on freight issues that should be expanded over time to include all seven counties.
Longer-term, the region must continue to build the global connections, infrastructure, and business relationships to position Southeast Florida as the “Singapore of the Americas” – a trade and investment hub leveraging a strategic location to play an outsized role on a global stage.