Southern portal

Alex Wertheim

UPS Americas President Romaine Seguin discusses the strategic importance of South Florida as a critical trade and logistics pathway to Latin American markets

How is South Florida an advantageous logistics hub?
South Florida is the connection to Central America and South America, which are critical markets for us. The expanding middle classes in Latin America, along with healthy GDP growth and rising international influence, are creating attractive opportunities for commerce and investment. South Florida is a strategic location for American and European companies seeking to venture south to expand their business.
South Florida is an important northern entryway for Latin America as well. It’s amazing the quantity of perishables that come through here – just look at flowers. Over 90 percent of the flowers that enter the U.S. come through Miami. Flowers are the number one import, followed by other perishables, and after that fish. It is the starting point to feeding the U.S.
What are the areas of growth for the logistics sector?
One of our strategic imperatives is to capture more of the healthcare vertical in Mexico and throughout the Americas region. The medical equipment and biotechnology industries are experiencing tremendous growth and change, and these are the areas where our consumers are pushing us to go. The number of patents expiring each year continues to increase, which means that a generic, more affordable product is get-ting into the market.
It’s not an easy market to enter because of the complexities entailed, whether it’s related to temperature control, infrastructure or human capital. Moreover, the regulations and licensing requirements in each country are different; for instance, some countries require facilities to have a pharmacist on site.
 
What are some recent developments in trade policy?
The most recent free trade agreements (FTAs) the U.S. signed with entered into effect in late 2012, one with Panama and one with Colombia. Despite continuous political debate, there is a movement to take the barriers down and enhance free trade. What is important is to educate the private sector, especially companies here in South Florida who wish to expand their businesses to international markets, on what FTAs are and what they can mean for a company.
 
Within the logistics sector, what factors most impact cost of operations in South Florida?
The great expense in transportation in Latin America is the customs processes – they’re not automated and extremely tedious. Automation provides more security, more transparency, and more consistency. We are working with government officials to improve these procedures. For South Florida-based logistics companies, the bulk of whose business is trade with Latin America, these delays become quite problematic.

Striking a balance

Alex Wertheim

PortMiami Director Juan Kuryla discusses balancing the growth of the port’s two lucrative business lines – cruise and containerized cargo

How much of PortMiami’s business is comprised of the cruise versus containerized cargo segment?
Revenues are significant from both sides, with roughly 60 percent of the direct revenue to the port coming from cruise and 40 percent from cargo; however, cargo comprises nearly 80 percent of the economic impact to Miami-Dade County. The cruise industry is extremely significant, driving tourism and employment growth; it is the number one contributor to Miami-Dade’s hotel occupancy. In the fiscal year 2014, PortMiami had a record-breaking year, processing 4.77 million cruise passengers in our 45th consecutive year as the world’s largest cruise home port. We benefit from having Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and Norwegian Cruise Lines – collectively comprising 75 percent of the global cruise market – headquartered in Miami-Dade County.
 
How will the completion of PortMiami’s Deep Dredge Project impact South Florida?
The Deep Dredge Project is a game-changer for this region. Upon the project’s completion in mid-2015, we will be the only U.S. port south of Virginia at a water depth of 50 feet. This will allow us to berth much larger vessels and reclaim some of the transshipment business we lost to ports in Panama and the Caribbean in the early 2000s.
This deeper draft capacity is of great interest to the large shipping companies, who save money, thus make money, by consolidating containers from multiple lines into a single larger vessel. The depth will enable us to capture new cargo business, particularly from Asia, on vessels that will now be able to transit the expanded Pan-ama Canal upon its completion in early 2016.
 
What is PortMiami’s strategy for the medium term?
Recapturing transshipment is a top priority. We lost much of this business after 9/11 because of high security-related costs and inspection protocols. Today we work closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to create a commercially friendly business environment at the port, while maintaining the highest standards of security. In conjunction with our partners at Florida East Coast Railway, we are targeting industries such as frozen poultry, beef, scrap metals, scrap paper, corn, soy, grains and other food products, to boost cargo volumes passing through the port.  Part of the port’s initiative is to export more loaded containers to complement the importation of products coming in from Asia and Europe. We also anticipate continued growth in trade to and from Latin America and the Caribbean as well as starting new trade routes with emerging markets such as India and Africa. On the cruise side, we are working on the construction of a new berth and terminal for completion within the next two to five years.  These improvements will expand our passenger capacity by approximately 20-25 percent.

Soaring growth

Miami International Airport Aviation Director Dr. Emilio T. Gonzalez, discusses infrastructural upgrades and plans to transform Miami-Dade into a global hub

 

Miami International Airport (MIA) has seen incredible growth in recent years. What is the strategy to keep pace?

Broadening capacity is a priority for this airport and at the core of both our medium and long-term strategies. We service 40 million passengers each year – roughly the population of Argentina – and the airport’s capacity is 50 million; at some point we will run out of space.

To anticipate these needs, we are undertaking a number of major infrastructural upgrades. One project is to build 40 hardstands to park planes. Until recently, air traffic operated on peaks and valleys. You see no arriving flights at 2 a.m., but at 6 a.m. there is a surge of planes. Some of our aircraft, particularly those originating from South America, fly here and go nowhere else. They arrive at, for example, 8 p.m. from Brazil and stay until 11 p.m. Because of American Airlines’ recent reorganization, we no longer have the peaks and valleys, but instead, have constant traffic. Consequently, we no longer have the luxury of avail-able empty gates for us to park idle planes.

We must also accommodate growth in air freight, another important driver in this economy. We operate five airfields. One of them, our training and transition airfield, located in the middle of the Everglades, has a 10,000-foot runway. We are looking to convert that into a cargo airport sometime in the distant future.

 

What is MIA doing to upgrade its terminals?

We are currently renovating Terminal E, which is part of the central concourse. Interestingly, we are only launching this project as a stopgap measure to buy us time before we can build new structures.

Eventually, Terminals G, F and E will become two terminals. We will start on one end of the airport and work our way in, knocking down terminals along the way. We are looking to break ground on this project in 2020 and it will take 10-15 years to complete the terminal.

Because of its central position within the airport, and because of added traffic from the slew of new flights that American Airlines has announced they will be adding, Terminal E will be where the action is. Subsequently, we are investing in modernizing it. We recently purchased a $90-million train system to improve connectivity within the airport. This will be delivered in the next two years and has a lifespan of 10 years. In the distant future, we are looking to erect a high-end mall, which will have all of the major luxury retailers, in the central terminal.

 

What are MIA’s plans for broadening connectivity with respect to passenger business?

MIA is the second-largest international passenger airport in the U.S. However, in looking at our existing network there are a number of gaps. With respect to Europe, we need to improve connections with Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. We are looking to develop routes like Warsaw-Miami and Stockholm-Miami.

Asia is another big untapped market for us, in terms of passenger service. We already have cargo business with Asian companies, namely China Air, Korean Air, and Cathay Pacific, and those are usually one-stop flights that go from East Asia to Alaska, refuel and go back. I have spoken to representatives from different Asian carriers, and they all want to come here; it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” The “when” will happen when these airlines get new, larger, aircraft, for instance, the Dreamliners. When they start getting A-380s, then we will start to see an increase in Asian traffic coming here.

We are also working on getting flights to Africa. These don’t necessarily have to be through African carriers but could be U.S. airlines with Miami-Johannesburg, Miami-Lagos or Miami-Cairo routes.

MIA is the number one international freight airport in the U.S. What are the growth fundamentals of this segment?Being a gateway city, Miami sees cargo both coming in and going out. Planes arrive full of goods, and the only way they can generate a profit is if they also leave with full loads. From a cargo perspective, Atlanta can’t be Miami because they don’t have much to send back. At MIA, thanks to South Florida’s robust distribution and logistics operations, all of our cargo planes come in full of goods and they leave full as well. They arrive with perishables – flowers, fish, fruit – and depart with high-tech exports, such as electronics, medical technology, mining equipment and automobiles.

 

How does MIA contribute to job growth and economic diversification in South Florida?

The airport is one of the largest employers in Miami-Dade County, contributing nearly 158,000 direct jobs to the economy annually. It also generates a significant number of indirect jobs in related and peripheral industries, such as tourism, logistics, and manufacturing.

For instance, although it may not be very visible, there is a robust aerospace industry in South Florida. One of the largest airplane manufacturing companies, the Brazilian-based Embraer, has its U.S. headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale. B/E Aerospace, which is headquartered in Palm Beach and manufactures interior cabin products, has more employees than U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). The French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR recently relocated their North American headquarters to MIA from Virginia.

 

What are the most pressing challenges of operating an airport of this size and significance?

There are a lot of moving parts – some of it operational, some financial. The operational aspect is tied to the fact that we have over 90 airlines that fly out of here and they need a lot of care. We also have over 200 concession locations, which would make us one of the largest malls in the U.S., as well as related businesses such as a hotel, parking facilities, etc.

On the financial side, MIA is the largest economic engine – not just in Miami-Dade County, but in the U.S. Southeast, from Washington, D.C., down. To put this in perspective, we generate $1 billion more revenue than Hatsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; we are bigger than Disney World and bigger than the Tennessee Valley Authority. When you generate that much wealth and economic business, everyone wants a piece of the action. Consequently, I get lobbied frequently and must ensure that proper procedures, when it comes to bids, are enforced at all times.

 

What is your strategic vision for MIA and your outlook on South Florida’s economy?

Currently, Miami-Dade is the Gateway to Latin America. Ultimately, our goal is to transform it to a global hub. We have the fundamentals to support this – strong tourism, real estate, logistics and banking industries – and MIA’s capital projects will only boost this progression.

 

Trends in South Florida’s Robust International Trade Sector

Overview of Imports and Exports to South Florida

While projections and forecasts for trends in international trade in the US show a plateaued trade deficit, Florida consistently remains one of the top 10 exporting states in the U.S., with the South Florida region as its economic powerhouse. The U.S. Census Foreign Trade Bureau reports that in 2013, the Miami metropolitan area was the seventh largest export market in the country, with merchandise shipments totaling $41.8 billion, $33.3 billion coming from Miami-Dade County alone. In 2013 South Florida also accounted for 67% of statewide trade– even as total trade across the nation had fallen 2.3%. International trade proved to be one of the Florida’s strongest sectors in 2014, generating $4.5- 5 billion in trade activity monthly, despite the economic challenges that affected global trade.

Major trade partners and products

South Florida benefits from having two important seaports, with PortMiami branded as “the Cargo Gateway to the Americas,” primarily because of an ideal geographic positioning, and a large market share of all trade with South and Central America. In 2013, the Miami- Fort Lauderdale- Pompano Beach area sent $5billion in goods to the Central American Free Trade (CAFTA) region, which is more than any other U.S. metro region.

Miami’s top export markets in 2013 included Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico. In addition to these markets, Miami also ranks among the major metropolitan area exporters to the United Arab Emirates, Chile, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Panama. Top export sectors from Miami are computer and electronic products; transportation equipment; primary metal manufacturing machinery and food and food related products.

Recent Developments and Emerging Opportunities

The U.S. Department of Transportation provided over half a billion dollars in investments to build the PortMiami Tunnel, which was completed in May 2014. Prior to the completion of this tunnel, there was only one access point for nearly 16,000 freight vehicles that pass through Miami daily. With the Deep Dredge Project set to be completed in early 2015, the port will be big ship ready, equipped to welcome super-size container vessels arriving via the newly expanded Panama Canal. PortMiami will be one of only three U.S. Atlantic ports to be at least 50 feet deep when the expanded Panama Canal opens in 2016. Large numbers of Super Post-Panamax megaships that previously offloaded cargo on the East and West Coasts of the United States will be able to traverse the expanded canal and into PortMiami. There has also been investment in the Intermodal/ Freight Restoration Project, which gives direct cargo access from port to the national rail systems.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection launched new technology at PortMiami allowing customs officers and agriculture specialists to release inspected cargo in real-time. Faster processing of containers increases time-to-market efficiencies saving days in transit time, and making PortMiami a more competitive choice for perishable goods.

Challenges to Trade in South Florida

While South Florida has been successful as a global leader in international trade, weaknesses in infrastructure and logistics have increased competition from other ports. Since trucking is the primary domestic freight mode within the state and region, Miami’s road congestion, ranked amongst the worst in the United States by Inrix, gave other ports, primarily in Texas and Georgia a competitive advantage. The manufacturing industries in Florida, while globally oriented, are relatively small. Geographically, Florida’s distance from U.S. markets has been another factor limiting its trade and manufacturing industries relying on Florida’s natural resources and agricultural products. According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, inefficiencies in roadways and logistics have made empty containers the most common commodity moving in and out of the state.

Additionally, South Florida, and particularly Miami, is vulnerable to extreme weather and climate change over time. The Miami-Dade Climate Change Advisory Task Force predicted a rise in sea level of at least 1.5 feet. Even at the least extreme end of their prediction, the port—which is classified as part of a “highest vulnerability low-lying area,”— increases in hurricanes and tropical storms as well as sea level rise could mean experiencing frequent flooding and periods of inoperability.

Forecast 2015 and beyond

South Florida is uniquely poised for increased international trade activities in the coming years. Recent capital Improvements have trade experts naming Miami as one of the top cities for trade for their strong logistical infrastructure. Recent capital investments in transportation systems are mitigating South Florida’s largest inefficiencies and barriers to trade, while the Deep Dredge Project is creating a significant advantage over most U.S. ports. PortMiami hopes to double its cargo throughput before the end of the decade, and is on track to do so.

PortMiami Tunnel Open!

The PortMiami Tunnel has finally opened. While the official dedication by Florida Governor Rick Scott occurred in mid-May, minor repairs and final safety checks kept the tunnel from being fully functional until early August. The four-lane tunnel runs under Biscayne Bay and connects directly to I-95 and state highway 836. This allows cargo trucks to reach the port without tying up downtown Miami surface streets. The immediate impact is an estimated 16,000 vehicles that travel to the port daily will have a direct route from highway to the port. This enables trucks and cargo to move in and out of the PortMiami with greater speed and efficiency while reducing traffic in downtown Miami.

The tunnel is part of a $2 billion dollar capital improvement effort that helps position South Florida as a hub for international transportation and logistics. The tunnel offers immediate relief to downtown Miami however the real payoff to expansion will begin sometime in 2015.

The Panama Canal is undergoing an expansion of its own to accommodate larger cargo ships. Currently, the Panama Canal is able to handle ships sized up to 5,000 TEUs (the term TEU refers to ‘twenty-foot equivalent units’, or a length of 20 feet). After expansion, the Panama Canal will be able to handle ships up to 12,000 TEUs. This expansion is scheduled for completion in 2015. While the Panama Canal is expanding, the PortMiami is deepening its existing channel to allow these larger cargo ships to enter. These ships, referred to as post-Panamax ships, can be handled only where a port can accommodate the ship size. Once completed, PortMiami will be the only port south of Norfolk, Virginia with the ability to accommodate post-Panamax ships

Along with the ability to handle post-Panamex ships, a benefit for Miami is its proximity to the Canal Zone. Currently, large cargo ships originating in Asia with a US destination offload their cargo on the US West Coast. Trucking and rail carriers move cargo from West Coast ports to the rest of the country. With the expansion of the Panama Canal, ships can travel from Asia ports to the East Coast and offload cargo directly into East Coast ports. Cargo traffic from Asia should increase and PortMiami should directly benefit. Bill Johnson, PortMiami Director, believes that by 2025, PortMiami could triple the volume it currently handles.

From an economic standpoint, PortMiami contributes about $28 billion per year to the South Florida economy. Directly and indirectly within the State of Florida, PortMiami supports 207,000 jobs; it is estimated that the PortMiami will create 33,000 new jobs. Services such as customs brokers, logistics providers and freight forwarders will be direct beneficiaries of the projected volume increase.

Port cities that lie between Miami and Norfolk – Savannah, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida – are looking to be ready for Post-Panamex ships however Miami is well on its way to completion. At stake is the economic benefit that comes with handling these large cargo ships.

Miami’s tunnel completion is the first step in a capital improvement plan that includes the deepening of the PortMiami’s channels as well as a partnership with the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) to connect the shipping docks to railway lines. FEC’s rail capabilities will enable cargo originating in the PortMiami to reach 70 percent of the American population in a matter of days, according to Mr. Johnson.

That the tunnel has addressed earlier issues and opened is a good sign for Miami as part of the long term growth and positioning as a global transportation hub. The tunnel will be key for moving cargo rapidly from Miami’s port onto the road but this is the first step in establishing Miami as a global transportation hub.

Growth in Seattle

Seattle is not named the ‘Emerald City’ for nothing. While it faces economic risks due to China’s slow fiscal growth and its support to one of the highest minimum wages in the country, the seaport city has recorded stronger economic growth than the nation in the last two years.

In a report by Puget Sound Business Journal, Lee Newgent said $30 billion-worth of construction and pipeline projects are currently underway in Seattle. Newgent is the executive secretary of the Seattle Building and Construction Trade Council. Seattle and the King County have an estimated 40 major projects in 2014. While the national unemployment rate surged to 6.2 percent in July, unemployment in the metropolitan Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area dropped to 4.7 percent in the same period. Around 28 percent of residents in the area are professionals holding business and managerial positions. In general, the state of Washington has experienced a drop in the unemployment rate to 5.6 percent, the lowest since the Great Recession in 2008.

The Seattle Consumer Price Index (CPI) also barely rose to 2 percent in June while core prices increased to 1.8 percent, reported by the Economic Revenue and Forecast Council. Average U.S. city CPI was at 2.1 percent while the national core prices were at 1.9 percent. Stark increase in CPI denotes inflation while large drop may lead to deflation. Aside from skyrocketing prices of goods and service, inflation often causes interest rates to rise. Sustainable inflation rate is at 2-3 percent. Since 2008, the Federal Reserve (Fed) has kept interest rates low and has been buying up trillions of dollars worth of relatively safe securities to counter inflation and encourage people to put their money to work in the economy. Last week, Fed chair Janet Yellen said some gauges of the job market have yet to show steady signs of a strong economy. Economists and investors expect the first interest-rate increase by mid-2015. Increased investment by businesses and slightly improved trade jump-started the country’s GDP to 4.2 percent this month, up from the initial projection of 4 percent in July. This is not, however, the case in the global landscape.

Seattle and the Chinese Economic Growth

While Seattle has managed to strengthen its economy amid domestic and global turmoil, the markets are not immune to it. Trade-dependent U.S. cities and states, like the seaport city, are highly vulnerable to economic effects of global events like the fighting in Iraq and Ukraine, among others. Seattle exported $24.16 billion of goods in 2008, making the city one of the country’s top exporters. In 2010, Washington ’s exported merchandise were at $53.4 billion, 19 percent of which went to the state’s largest market, China. Seattle metro area accounted for the 81 percent of Washington’s exports.

China’s fiscal revenues were at 8.5 percent in the first seven months of 2014, down from 10.2 percent of the same period of last year. The Asian giant experienced decline in revenues in 24 of its 31 provincial divisions. According to Xu Shaoshi, minister of the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission, China is dealing with complicated situations with uncertainty at home and abroad. China’s central government continues to adopt and implement stable microeconomic and flexible macroeconomic policies. The Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) sees China’s current slow economic development as a potential impediment to Seattle and Washington’s overall economic growth.

The Aerospace Industry and Foreign-Owned Firms

According to David Allen, who sits on the board of the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County, the city has 14 economic clusters that sustain its growth. They include aerospace, information technology, life sciences, fashion, maritime, trade and logistics, clean technology, financial services, global health, and philanthropy among others. While Boeing’s move to Chicago in 2001 caused shock and outrage from locals, the city’s aerospace industry is still thriving. To this date, the Seattle metropolitan area remains to be with the highest concentration of aerospace jobs in the world.

Aerospace companies support 209,000 direct and indirect jobs in Washington. In 2014, Boeing accounted for the 81,400 jobs in the industry. Being a trade-dependent economy, Seattle also abounds with foreign-owned firms, which employ 93,000 people in the state. Majority of these companies are from Germany, Canada, the U.K., Japan and France. According to the Census Bureau, the King County had 63,841 establishments in 2012. Of these establishments, 35, 703 employed 1-4 workers while 162 employs at least 500 workers. The majority of these establishments will have to pay one of the highest minimum wages in the country to comply with the city’s new legislation starting April next year.

Foreign Investment and Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage

In June, Seattle made into law a bill that will increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, eliciting different reactions from workers and business owners. The city’s minimum will be the highest of any big U.S. city and more than twice the $7.25 federal minimum in 2015. While the minimum wage increase would be implemented gradually targeting establishments with 500 employees first, the business sector believes the move would eventually raise prices and hamper the flow of foreign investments and force smaller businesses to close causing job losses. The International Franchise Association (IFA) together with several local business owners are challenging the legality of the new regulation before the federal court. Could the ‘Emerald City’ manage to sustain its economic sparkle once the law is put in effect? That has yet to be seen.

 

Savannah’s Sea Port: Georgia’s Growing Economic Powerhouse

Savannah’s Sea Port: Georgia’s Growing Economic Powerhouse

Port of Savannah: Fastest Growing Port on East Coast

For the third time this year, the state of Georgia was recognized as the number 1 state for business in 2014. This recognition was due largely in part to three booming sectors in the state, including logistics and distribution, with the Port of Savannah at the forefront. Specifically, all three sectors have contributed to more than 28,000 new jobs in the state as well as approximately $5 million in investment, said Jennifer Nelson of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, in a recent interview with SavannahNow.com Contributor Mary Carr Mayle.

The biggest distinction went to the Port of Savannah, for being the fastest growing sea port in the United States for containerized imports. According to a nationally recognized source which reports data of U.S. waterborne trade activity, the Port of Savannah increased its containerized imports nearly 12.3 percent the first six months of 2014 in comparison to the same period in 2013.

This means that the Port of Savannah is currently outpacing larger ports such as Los Angeles and New York/New Jersey in growth and subsequently leading the east coast ports in performance, by nearly double reported growth figures for the entire east coast. With the Port of Virginia and the Port Everglades trailing close behind, the east coast has become a general force of nature in logistics and distribution in the United States.

A Closer Look at the Sea Port

The Port of Savannah, which is operated by the Georgia Ports Authority, is the largest of its kind in the United States. This predominantly commercial use single-operator facility houses two on-terminal class one rail services: the CSX and Norfolk Southern Railroads, which enables the port to move approximately 20 percent of overseas containers for the entire United States east coast. The port serves over 100 lines of steamships and is home to the only centralized customer care team in the entire logistics and distribution industry. The port also houses many distribution facilities for major companies such as Saddle Creek Logistics Services and Nordic Cold Storage, among others.

Over the past 8 years, the Port of Savannah has experienced record-breaking growth rates, which have not only helped to boost the state of Georgia to the top of best places to do business lists, but also has helped drive a considerable amount of business within the logistics and distribution industry; including job creation and economic investment. Specifically, the Port of Savannah moved a record 3.1 million container units between the July 2013 and June 2014.

This sentiment was recently echoed by Curtis Foltz, the Executive Director of the Georgia Ports Authority, as he announced plans for the Port of Savannah based on its success trend. Foltz also said that continued growth in population in the southeast region of the United States coupled with increased investment will certainly aid in the port’s ability to overtake its northern rivals as the number one containerized import leader within the next fifteen years. However, the road to expansion has not been without its trials.

Challenges that Lie Ahead

Currently, the biggest challenge that the Port of Savannah faces is securing federal funding for the expansion project. Although in June 2014, President Obama signed into law the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 and Georgia Ports Authority has agreed to invest nearly $1.4 billion investment over the next decade in the expansion of its busiest port, the state of Georgia has yet to reach an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers, which is the federal agency that will oversee the project.

When reached, the agreement would detail a cost sharing arrangement between both organizations. The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP), which will deepen the Savannah River to 47 feet, will not only decrease costs for current and future clients but will also allow the Port of Savannah to service more clients; a goal that will undoubtedly lead to industry domination.

An additional challenge that presents a threat to the growth potential to the Savannah Sea Port is the current state of the logistics and distribution industry on the west coast, which was recently affected by contract disputes between the management and dockworkers. Savannah’s port industry domination is also threatened by the rate of growth for east coast competitors such as the expansion of the Panama Canal and the Southport Turning Notch extension in Port Everglades will continue to grow.

Looking to the Future of Logistics and Distribution

With continued growth expected well into the future for the logistics and distribution industry, such an increase will naturally lead to an increase in containerized imports for the east coast ports. As a result, it is without question that the logistics and distribution industry will aid in further economic recovery of the United States by creating jobs as well as business investment for years to come.

 

Overview of Imports and Exports to South Florida

While projections and forecasts for trends in international trade in the US show a plateaued trade deficit, Florida consistently remains one of the top 10 exporting states in the U.S., with the South Florida region as its economic powerhouse. The U.S. Census Foreign Trade Bureau reports that in 2013, the Miami metropolitan area was the seventh largest export market in the country, with merchandise shipments totaling $41.8 billion, $33.3 billion coming from Miami-Dade County alone. In 2013 South Florida also accounted for 67% of statewide trade– even as total trade across the nation had fallen 2.3%. International trade proved to be one of the Florida’s strongest sectors in 2014, generating $4.5- 5 billion in trade activity monthly, despite the economic challenges that affected global trade.

Major trade partners and products

South Florida benefits from having two important seaports, with PortMiami branded as “the Cargo Gateway to the Americas,” primarily because of an ideal geographic positioning, and a large market share of all trade with South and Central America. In 2013, the Miami- Fort Lauderdale- Pompano Beach area sent $5billion in goods to the Central American Free Trade (CAFTA) region, which is more than any other U.S. metro region.

Miami’s top export markets in 2013 included Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico. In addition to these markets, Miami also ranks among the major metropolitan area exporters to the United Arab Emirates, Chile, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Panama. Top export sectors from Miami are computer and electronic products; transportation equipment; primary metal manufacturing machinery and food and food related products.

Recent Developments and Emerging Opportunities

The U.S. Department of Transportation provided over half a billion dollars in investments to build the PortMiami Tunnel, which was completed in May 2014. Prior to the completion of this tunnel, there was only one access point for nearly 16,000 freight vehicles that pass through Miami daily. With the Deep Dredge Project set to be completed in early 2015, the port will be big ship ready, equipped to welcome super-size container vessels arriving via the newly expanded Panama Canal. PortMiami will be one of only three U.S. Atlantic ports to be at least 50 feet deep when the expanded Panama Canal opens in 2016. Large numbers of Super Post-Panamax megaships that previously offloaded cargo on the East and West Coasts of the United States will be able to traverse the expanded canal and into PortMiami. There has also been investment in the Intermodal/ Freight Restoration Project, which gives direct cargo access from port to the national rail systems.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection launched new technology at PortMiami allowing customs officers and agriculture specialists to release inspected cargo in real-time. Faster processing of containers increases time-to-market efficiencies saving days in transit time, and making PortMiami a more competitive choice for perishable goods.

Challenges to Trade in South Florida

While South Florida has been successful as a global leader in international trade, weaknesses in infrastructure and logistics have increased competition from other ports. Since trucking is the primary domestic freight mode within the state and region, Miami’s road congestion, ranked amongst the worst in the United States by Inrix, gave other ports, primarily in Texas and Georgia a competitive advantage. The manufacturing industries in Florida, while globally oriented, are relatively small. Geographically, Florida’s distance from U.S. markets has been another factor limiting its trade and manufacturing industries relying on Florida’s natural resources and agricultural products. According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, inefficiencies in roadways and logistics have made empty containers the most common commodity moving in and out of the state.

Additionally, South Florida, and particularly Miami, is vulnerable to extreme weather and climate change over time. The Miami-Dade Climate Change Advisory Task Force predicted a rise in sea level of at least 1.5 feet. Even at the least extreme end of their prediction, the port—which is classified as part of a “highest vulnerability low-lying area,”— increases in hurricanes and tropical storms as well as sea level rise could mean experiencing frequent flooding and periods of inoperability.

Forecast 2015 and beyond

South Florida is uniquely poised for increased international trade activities in the coming years. Recent capital Improvements have trade experts naming Miami as one of the top cities for trade for their strong logistical infrastructure. Recent capital investments in transportation systems are mitigating South Florida’s largest inefficiencies and barriers to trade, while the Deep Dredge Project is creating a significant advantage over most U.S. ports. PortMiami hopes to double its cargo throughput before the end of the decade, and is on track to do so.

 

Colombia’s Cárdenas Leads the Way

Colombia’s Cárdenas Leads the Way

By: Nicholas O’ConnorAméricaEconomía

Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos and his government enjoyed a successful 2015. His persistence in negotiations with the FARC led to what looks to be a peaceful solution to a conflict that claimed the lives of thousands of Colombians and caused the displacement of thousands more.

His recent visit to the US also had positive results. Barack Obama pledged $450 million in aid in order to continue US support for Plan Colombia.  The successful initiative has been rechristened Peace Colombia and will look to solidify the achievements made since the inception of the first aid plan over 15 years ago.

Colombia’s stability has not gone unnoticed in Latin America either. AméricaEconomía Intelligence recently published the results of its Ranking of Latin American Finance Ministers for 2015. The ranking is constructed with input from the region’s top economists as well as the readers of the magazine. Mauricio Cárdenas, Colombia’s Finance Minister since 2012, was named in top spot. This comes as an improvement on his second place finish in 2014. Cárdenas performance stood out due to the steps he has taken in order to improve the country’s macroeconomic stability and to strengthen its financial institutions. The success is even more remarkable considering that oil production makes up a large part of Colombia’s economic output.

Chile’s Rodrigo Valdés came in in second place. The results show that his work is highly rated at an international level which comes as a slight contrast to how he is viewed locally. The Chilean economy continues to stutter as copper prices remain low. Last years poll topper, Panama’s Dulcidio de la Guardia, completes the podium. The growth of Panama’s economy continues to lead the region although there are some concerns over the continued delays related to the expansion of the canal.

Returning to the theme of Colombia, it must now be recognized that Plan Colombia was a success. Hundreds of millions of US dollars helped bring one of Latin America’s oldest democracies back from the brink of failure. Alvaro Uribe, President of Colombia from 2002 to 2007, played a key role in the process and will still have a key role to play in the country’s future. Unfortunately, current relations between Uribe and Santos are not fantastic. The former President has been vociferous in his criticism of his successor. It is important that the two learn to work together as both will be present at the heart of Colombian politics for the foreseeable future.

Cárdenas has been rumored to be a potential successor for Santos when his term finishes in 2018. An astute politician he has been a steadfast ally for Santos and has been openly showing his support for the President’s Austeridad Inteligente(Intelligent Austerity) policy that calls for a reduction of government expenditure. Cárdenas, eager to show his support, tweeted a photo of his economy class air ticket to Davos last month. If he can manage to keep Colombia’s economy ticking over during the next few years of low commodity prices, he will be well positioned by the time the 2018 elections come around. Many presume that he will have to face off against the aforementioned Alvaro Uribe. A tough task indeed, but his chances have been given a boost with this award.

AméricaEconomía is Latin America’s leading business publication. Its international edition is complimented by local editions based in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. In 2016 the magazine will launch a Central American edition with circulation in Panamá, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

AméricaEconomía is keenly read by a growing regional community of businessmen and businesswomen, entrepreneurs, executives and senior officials who need to understand the region from local, regional and global context.

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