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Florida Ports Council, Enterprise Florida Host Virtual Forum to Help Businesses Grow Trade through Florida’s Ports

TALLAHASSEE – Hundreds of business and government leaders, local community member and international trade partners attended “Focused on the Future,” the first virtual forum to highlight the work of Florida seaports hosted by the Florida Ports Council and Enterprise Florida.

Just before the worldwide pandemic hit Florida’s economy, Florida seaports showed steady trade from 2018 to 2019. Florida’s total waterborne trade for 2019 was valued at $86.6 billion. One in five U.S. exporters is located in the state, and 96 percent of Florida exporters are small or medium-sized enterprises with 500 or fewer employees.

“Florida is proud of the economic impact that our ports facilitate,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis, who addressed the audience during the forum’s opening. “Despite the impacts that COVID-19 has had on our businesses and supply chains, Florida is positioned for steady, economic growth through international trade. We have the robust infrastructure of our commercial ports; we have a tax structure that is consistently ranked one of the best in the nation.”

DeSantis also encouraged businesses to look to Florida’s seaports as partners to grow jobs and expand trade. “We have trade partners who are poised to receive Florida-made products right now. That is why I hope you will consider trade opportunities for your own businesses. Take your inventory to new markets, create new sales opportunities where you have an instant competitive edge. Leverage the efficiencies of our modernized ports and the maritime industry that serves Florida. …We want every business in the state to leverage this important infrastructure for the sake of commerce and for growth.”

Florida’s seaports have a $117.6 billion economic impact and account for more than 900,000 direct and indirect jobs, while linking communities to vital national and international markets.

“Florida’s 15 seaports have long been an economic driver for our state,” said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault. “Over the next five years, there are more than $3 billion in planned investments in our seaport facilities and infrastructure, which provide for job creation and stabilization, while bolstering local economies. And since seaport structure lasts for 30 or more years, the infrastructure that we develop today will continue to have economic benefits for generations to come.”

“The total economic impact of cargo and vessel activity at Florida seaports is 13 percent of the state’s Gross Domestic Product, which is nearly $117.6 billion. Florida continues to invest in seaports and freight mobility infrastructure, to ensure that jobs stay in Florida,” said Dane Eagle, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “Our ports and our state are focused on the future, a brighter future for our workers, our families and our communities.”

The virtual forum hosted many other statewide leaders to discuss port economic impacts and the developments and investments ports will continue to make in the future to remain competitive while providing goods and services to the state, the nation and the globe.

Other speakers included:

  • Doug Wheeler, President & CEO of the Florida Ports Council
  • Jamal Sowell, Florida Secretary of Commerce and President & CEO of Enterprise Florida, Inc.
  • Representatives from Port Canaveral, Port Everglades, JAXPORT, Port Manatee, PortMiami, the Port of Palm Beach and Port Panama City
  • Congressman John Rutherford
  • Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart
  • Consul General of Mexico Jonathan Chait Auerbach
  • Senator Tom Wright

Over the past three decades, Florida’s seaports have invested billions of dollars to expand capacity and connectivity, both critical components in the efficient movement of people and cargo on and off the port. Seaports work to enhance the state’s economy and the quality of life in Florida by fostering the growth of domestic and international waterborne commerce.

The forum is available online at thefloridachannel.org/videos/

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