Florida: Gateway to America, Pathway to Global Trade

Florida: Gateway to America, Pathway to Global Trade

For logistics and manufacturing companies, the Sunshine State is the place to grow.

Recite the first words that come to mind when you think of Florida. Sun? Fun? Relaxation? Retirement? All good. But if you don’t think transportation and logistics, you miss the mark.


Cargo Tonnage Continues to Rise
Partnership Provides Quick Perishables Route

Florida’s geographic location makes it one of the primary logistics sites for any business seeking to access either the East Coast or Gulf Coast of the United States. Florida is the only state with seaport access in both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, Florida’s location allows for cost-efficient access to the Caribbean and South America.

Florida also is the country’s third-largest state, with almost 21 million residents. With nearly 120 million visitors annually, Florida is one of the largest consumer markets in the United States. Florida seaports provide the most cost-efficient means to access this and other discretionary markets in the United States and Latin America.

Florida seaports, along with their federal and state partners, have invested more than $2 billion in seaport infrastructure to ensure cargo and passengers can move efficiently in and out of the state and to their final destinations. These investments include infrastructure and capacity to handle larger post-Panamax cargo vessels transiting through the expanded Panama Canal and the Suez Canal.

Building Economic Strength

On land, on sea, and in the air—Florida’s airports are skyways to the world—the Sunshine State provides the perfect pathways to business success. And Florida’s leaders are continually focused on attracting new businesses and enhancing those already in place.

“We should invest in our people.” That was the message earlier in 2018 from Dr. Jerry Parrish, chief economist and director of research for the Florida Chamber Foundation. There is no doubt that Florida has followed precisely that directive.

Florida’s Gross Domestic Product topped $1 trillion in 2018. The state also is on track to add 180,200 new jobs this year, accounting for one in every 14 new jobs created nationwide.

This is good—no, great—news not only for those who live in Florida but for logistics professionals and everyone else who does business in the state where jobs are nearly as plentiful as oranges. No wonder Florida is viewed as a prime site for manufacturing and distribution facilities.

Florida accounts for 5 percent of the U.S. economy, but creates 10 percent of the nation’s new jobs. With an estimated 898 people per day moving into Florida, the Chamber Foundation’s Florida 2030 research initiative predicts the state’s population will grow to 26 million by 2030.

“Population growth will continue to drive Florida’s economy,” the Chamber Foundation says in its report. Tourism continues to generate solid economic gains—more tourists visited Florida in 2017 than any other year—so it is not surprising that tourism-related commerce continues to fuel job growth. But tourism is just one chapter in the story of the state’s prosperity.

Ports and Progress

Navigating the Sunshine State’s seaport resources is the Florida Ports Council (FPC), a nonprofit corporation that serves as the professional association for Florida’s 15 public seaports and their management.

“The Florida Ports Council partners with our seaports to communicate that Florida offers definitive advantages to consumers and producers by delivering state-of-the-art infrastructure, services, and connectivity to move freight and passengers with ever-increasing speed and efficiency,” says Doug Wheeler, the FPC’s president and CEO.

To prepare for new growth, improve efficiency, and minimize costs to port users over the long term, Florida’s seaports have identified $3.3 billion in capital improvements over the next five years. In general, these projects will automate processes, decrease costs, add capacity, attract cargo, and expedite movement, with an emphasis on using as few resources as possible, Wheeler says.

Capital projects vary substantially by port and by year. Here are several examples:

Port Canaveral is focused on replacing its Cruise Terminal 3, currently used for single-day port calls, with an expanded facility to serve multi-day vessels with up to 8,000 passengers.

Port Everglades is also enhancing cruise capacity, upgrading Cruise Terminal 25 just in time to welcome the futuristic Celebrity Edge in December 2018. On the cargo side, the port is modernizing Petroleum Slip 1, working with petroleum partners that are developing improved offloading infrastructure.

Northeast Florida’s Port of Fernandina is one of several ports focused on distribution and logistics centers. A logistics center situated at the 200-acre Crawford Diamond Industrial Park will help Northeast Florida capture a portion of the discretionary cargo currently moving through out-of-state ports.

Deepening the harbor at JAXPORT sets up the region for massive growth. A 47-foot channel will accommodate more cargo aboard the largest ships. Forecasts are for up to two million new 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

And, along with a wide range of ongoing infrastructure upgrades at the Blount Island and Talleyrand terminals, the port is constructing a new automobile processing terminal at Dame’s Point to increase vehicle-handling capacity by 25 percent.

The Port of Key West has finished fine-tuning its Mallory Square Pier with a mooring dolphin upgrade. A 33-acre urban park, being developed by the city nearby, will serve cruise passengers.

Port Manatee has a broad slate of capital projects, including expansion of cold storage, gate upgrades, and inner-harbor dredging.

PortMiami is planning for cruise and cargo terminal expansion, additional intermodal and parking facilities, ferry terminals, an additional cargo laydown area, warehouse consolidation, roadway realignments, a new modern gate system, inland terminal area, bulkhead improvements, and other upgrades.

In addition to redeveloping Berth 1 and Berth 17, and expanding on-port intermodal rail, the Port of Palm Beach will redevelop 3.5 acres as a refrigerated container laydown area with a 140-percent increase in reefer plugs over the current installation.

Port Panama City is increasing capacity at its wood pellet terminal and constructing a modern forest products terminal. It has plans to deepen its east channel, too.

In a non-traditional use of port facilities that will stimulate private sector job growth, the Port of Pensacola is modifying Warehouse #1 to give it a “high hat” bay to support overhead bridge and low bay cranes. It is also rehabilitating Berth 6, and expects to complete new ferry docks in 2018.

Port Tampa Bay has multi-phased developments underway at its Channelside properties, East Port, Port Redwing, and Hooker’s Point to address rapid consumption growth in West Central Florida. In addition to new tenants, acreage, cargo yards, and cranes, it has completed the Berth 150 finger pier and is putting in place new on-dock cold storage.

Among emerging ports, the Port of Fort Pierce is moving forward on plans to rehabilitate Fisherman’s Wharf and the Black Pearl Boat Ramp. It has almost completed reconstruction of the primary port entrance, and is considering development options on numerous parcels, including Harbour Pointe.

The Port of Port St. Joe and a private partner, The St. Joe Company, are aligning capital projects with demand.The port is improving roadworks and rail connections, developing dredging projects for the ship turning basin and the shipping channel, and planning for a new dry dock.

The Port St. Pete’s marine science/research niche is dictating investment, which includes a wharf renovation to better serve visiting vessels and an educationally focused partnership initiative, “Port Discovery.”

Florida’s deep-water seaport officials are well versed in not only the advantages the ports provide, but also in the rich overall environment the state offers for those seeking to locate or expand their presence in this logistics mecca.

“Florida’s seaports can handle almost any type of cargo or business that is out there,” says Jim Pyburn, director of business development for Port Everglades. “Florida also has access to a diverse, well-educated workforce as the South Florida area grows in both logistics and the technology sector.”

Charting a Course

Access also is key to the state’s success. “South Florida has great highway connections between major regions of the state as well as rail connections, including the new Brightline commuter rail that continues to link the major workforce hubs of Florida,” Pyburn points out.

Indeed, the state’s enviable location goes well beyond U.S. borders. “Proximity to the Latin American and Caribbean markets is a huge logistics advantage,” Pyburn says. “We see manufacturing moving away from rising wages in Far East labor markets into Latin America and the Caribbean. Florida—in particular, Port Everglades—has the most direct ship-line services to these Latin American and Caribbean markets.

“These markets require services to transport raw materials and finished goods to and from manufacturing facilities,” he adds. “Because Port Everglades has the best connections and most frequent services to these markets, companies will look to our Foreign Trade Zone (No. 25), the third-largest in the United States, and other distribution facilities to supplement their logistics networks.”

Domestically, Port Everglades boasts a premier near-port rail service with the Florida East Coast Railroad Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, which can quickly and efficiently transport goods to and from the U.S. hinterland.

Enterprise Florida, the official economic development organization for the state, provides support to local businesses. It also helps them develop business abroad through trade missions all over the world.

In addition, to develop and promote business, Port Everglades works closely with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Port Everglades Association, the Office of Economic and Small Business Development, Florida Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association, and other local and state organizations. The port also collaborates with the Florida East Coast Railroad (FECR) to maintain an efficient and cost-effective way of transporting goods.

One-Stop Shop

In short, Port Everglades is a one-stop shop for logistics professionals. “We are the number-one port in the state of Florida for perishable/refrigerated cargo volume, and number five in the United States,” Pyburn notes. “We are one of the biggest ports in the country for trade between Latin America and the Caribbean, handling more than 15 percent of all U.S. trade with Latin America.

“We are the administrators for Foreign Trade Zone No. 25, which allows companies to do business locally and more cost effectively,” Pyburn says. “It also potentially can reduce tariffs—depending upon a particular product’s portion of U.S.-made components—which is becoming increasingly important in world trade in light of new government policies.”

With all its current assets, Port Everglades is hardly floating on idle. Among other enhancements, the port embarked on a project to extend the Southport Turning Notch from 900 to 2,400 feet, with the potential to add five berths. Additional projects include widening/deepening the major shipping channel, acquiring up to six new super post-Panamax cranes, improving crane rail and terminals, and relocating and constructing a new FTZ facility.

Providing easy and efficient access to central Florida, the 10th-largest market in the United States, is Port Canaveral.

“Port Canaveral’s deep-water container and multi-purpose cargo berths provide an economical and convenient ocean gateway into Central Florida and beyond,” says Capt. John Murray, chief executive officer of the Canaveral Port Authority.

“The port is ideally suited for short sea shipping with its location directly on the main shipping lanes along the East Coast of Florida,” he says. “Port Canaveral’s harbor is just one hour from sea buoy to dock, and an easy, deep draft and unencumbered transit for carriers, which allows for highly efficient routing and reduced vessel costs.”

Going Non-stop

The port’s location offers uncongested non-stop highway connections that allow all types of cargo to reach high-demand consumer markets such as the Greater Orlando area, as well as the southeastern United States. There is just one stoplight to State Route 528 (Beachline Expressway) as well as I-4 and I-95, Murray notes.

“Port Canaveral makes it easy for domestic and international shippers to take full advantage of the port’s strategic location to reach the fast-growing Central Florida market,” he adds.

Another logistics asset is the Port Canaveral Logistics Center, located about 15 miles from Port Canaveral in Titusville, near the Kennedy Space Center. The logistics center is a 246,240-square-foot facility next to the Space Coast Regional Airport and 37 miles from Orlando International Airport. From the site, transit times are 121 miles to Tampa, 144 miles to Jacksonville, 208 miles to Miami, and 482 miles to Atlanta.

Port Canaveral leverages its location assets with more than 370,000 square feet of enclosed, dry and secure dockside warehousing, plus 280,000 square feet of refrigerated warehouse space. Port Canaveral is the grantee for FTZ 136, administered by American Cruise-Aid Logistics, which operates a 15,000-square-foot warehouse at the port.

Meanwhile, SeaPort Canaveral, an operator within the FTZ, supplies a significant amount of transportation fuel for Central Florida, as well as jet fuel for international flights from four Florida airports: Orlando International, Orlando Sanford International, Orlando Melbourne International, and Daytona International.

Port Canaveral recently signed a contract to purchase a mobile harbor crane with an 18-container reach. “The crane will be able to handle oversized cargo and heavy space components,” Murray says. The $5.8-million Liebherr crane is expected to be delivered in early 2019.

Giving Berth

In addition, work is underway on a multi-purpose cargo berth that will accommodate facilities for diverse cargo operations including the commercial space industry. Scheduled for completion in mid-2019, North Cargo Berth 8 on Port Canaveral’s north side will provide the infrastructure and capabilities to handle a growing portfolio of heavy and oversized cargo, including commercial spacecraft components. The berth is designed and engineered as a multimodal/intermodal berth that will provide flexible capacity and capability to accommodate more diverse commerce at the port.

“With the port experiencing unprecedented demand for bulkhead space, coupled with rapid economic growth in central Florida and a growing commercial space industry on the Space Coast, North Cargo Berth 8 will ensure we have the ability to meet the increased demand for diversified cargo-handling capabilities,” Murray says.

Crews from Orion Marine Group of Tampa are currently installing 413 concrete relieving piles, each about 90 feet long. Once the piles have been placed, construction will start on a seawall with a concrete cap. The 900-foot seawall and planned 100-foot pier extension will be capable of handling an 850-foot ship.

Connecting the Dots

With all its logistics assets, along with economic advantages that include a favorable tax climate, business-friendly government policies, and competitive costs, Florida clearly makes a strong case to win business. Still, locating or relocating a business remains an exhaustive and research-intensive process. But the state’s welcoming environment translates into plentiful resources designed to help ease that process, and to offer continued assistance throughout the journey to success.

“Our job is to ensure that we present the big picture and drill down when necessary,” says Jake Austin, CEO of the Plant City Economic Development Corporation. Plant City’s location in the heart of the I-4 Corridor connecting Tampa to Daytona makes it a magnet for business. The EDC exists to make sure all resources are engaged to maximum benefit.

“Sometimes, whether it be new or established companies, employers may not know that they qualify for certain financial incentives that are used to attract jobs and capital investment to our community,” Austin says. “We make sure we present all the relevant information—no detail is too big or too small.”

It’s all about connecting the dots. “The Plant City EDC has excellent working relationships with our regional airports, rail lines, utility providers, schools and, most importantly, our city government,” Austin says. “We work to ensure that businesses within our community have the information they need to make well-informed decisions regarding their businesses and future growth.”

Plant City’s location allows logistics service providers such as Star Distribution Systems and Patterson Companies to guarantee next-day delivery anywhere in the state. Access to two international airports—Tampa and Orlando—as well as Port Tampa Bay increase Plant City’s appeal.

Moreover, the region’s transportation infrastructure includes extensive rail and highway systems. “These are incredible assets for both logistics and manufacturing companies that are in the business of producing and/or moving product quickly and efficiently,” Austin says.

Advocates for Business

The EDC aggressively markets Plant City and, in turn, promotes the businesses that thrive there. “We do so by engaging with real estate brokers and developers in our region and abroad,” Austin says. “We also attend trade shows and conferences that convene corporate decisionmakers in the logistics and manufacturing industries. The goal is to plant the seed for Plant City.

“We strive to be a single point of contact for any matter related to locating or expanding your business in our region,” he adds. “That remains true for a brand new business or a rapidly expanding one. We help navigate local government processes and become advocates for your specific needs.”

It helps that local government is focused on economic development. “Fortunately, we have an engaged and proactive city commission that fully supports our mission,” Austin says. “The city’s approach to business is to be welcoming and efficient and provide all the necessary tools to foster growth, rather than being looked at as a barrier to entry.”

What developments are on the horizon? There has been “increasing talk,” Austin says, of a privately funded high-speed rail along I-4 that would connect Tampa and Orlando, and then eventually link into Brightline, which is already operating in South Florida. “An interconnected rail line opens up opportunities for tourism and business travelers and reduces stress along congested highways,” he explains.

Meanwhile, downtown Water Street Tampa is another project that will benefit Plant City. With more than 50 acres to be developed, the space will include residential, retail, hotel, and entertainment facilities. “This change in landscape will add selling features for both residents and businesses, providing a host of easily accessible features all within 30 minutes of Plant City,” Austin says.

Looking Up

In a very real sense, the sky is the limit for Florida business. In addition to its shipping ports, extensive highway and rail networks, and multiple hubs that allow for high-speed data transmission from around the United States to Europe, Latin America, and Africa, Florida features numerous international airports offering commercial and cargo service to points around the globe.

“Florida continues to grow in international trade and commerce,” says Chris Mangos, director of marketing for Miami International Airport. Mangos cites the high-tech, biomedical, agriculture, international banking, and finance sectors as fields that are particularly soaring across the state.

His perspective is from America’s third-busiest airport for international passengers. Miami International Airport, also known as MIA and historically as Wilcox Field, is the primary airport serving the Miami area.

Located on 3,230 acres of land near downtown Miami, MIA is operated by the Miami-Dade Aviation Department and is the property of Miami-Dade County government. Founded in 1928, the airport offers more flights to Latin America and the Caribbean than any other U.S. airport. It boasts a lineup of more than 100 air carriers and is the top U.S. airport for international freight.

MIA also is the leading economic engine for Miami-Dade County and the state of Florida, generating business revenue of $30.9 billion annually and approximately 60 percent of all international visitors to Florida.

Mangos says MIA’s vision is to grow from a recognized hemispheric hub to a global airport of choice that offers customers a world-class experience and an expanded route network with direct cargo and passenger access to all world regions.

The airport and related aviation industries contribute 270,681 jobs directly and indirectly to the local economy. That equates to one out of 4.1 jobs.

MIA, one of 19 commercial airports in the state, is an International Air Transport Association (IATA) designated Pharma Hub. The airport’s pharmaceutical imports and exports totaled $3.7 billion in 2017. In February 2018, MIA gained final approval from the U.S. Department of Commerce to designate the airport as a Foreign Trade Zone magnet site. “The FTZ will create new synergies for on-aiport businesses,” Mangos says.

In addition, the airport’s Ocean-to-Air Transshipment Program saves cargo shippers time and money through expedited air transport of perishable products. The program permits perishables to arrive from Latin America by sea, and then to be flown from MIA to international markets.

Meanwhile, the airport is implementing the Cargo, Optimization, Redevelopment, and Expansion Program. This comprehensive, long-term initiative will maximize existing cargo operations and double capacity by optimizing current use of facilities, demolishing and replacing aged and costly structures, and developing new cargo facilities for the future.

MIA recently tweeted: “When everything feels like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top.” It is this view that business leaders throughout Florida have enjoyed—and will continue to enjoy for the foreseeable future.

Cargo Tonnage Continues to Rise

  • Florida’s waterborne international and domestic cargo in fiscal 2016/2017 increased 3.2 percent, from 107.4 million to 110.8 million tons.
  • Container cargo tonnage grew 7.1 percent and 20-foot equivalent units grew by 5 percent. Dry bulk grew by 7.5 percent.
  • Domestic tonnage, at 57.8 million tons, overtook international trade in 2017, and now exceeds it by 4.7 million tons.
  • Import tonnage is twice that of export tonnage, with a 67:33 split. The long-term trend shows rising waterborne imports and falling exports, although in 2017, exports rose 8.3 percent and imports fell nominally.

Source: Florida Ports Council


Partnership Provides Quick Perishables Route

Logistics decision-makers in Florida and elsewhere are turning to a new cost- and time-efficient solution for perishable products traveling to and from Mexico. TransGulf, a niche expedited container service calling on Tampa and Tuxpan, Mexico, was launched in January 2017 as a partnership created in response to trucking regulations that slowed door-to-door service for cross-border shipping of products including limes, avocados, fresh citrus juices, and concentrates.

“We can help anyone who has transport needs out of Mexico,” says Alejandro Lasheras, a TransGulf board member. The TransGulf intermodal solution utilizes trucking, a dedicated ocean vessel, and rail carriers on both sides of the trade. The company offers cross-dock and refrigerated services to and from Tampa, reaching cities throughout Florida, the Southeast, Midwest, and all along the East Coast. It also offers service to Canada.

In Florida, the TransGulf service uses Port Tampa Bay, located in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, as its hub for access to backhaul motor and rail carriers that connect Tampa to the rest of North America.

Transporting portable ISO tanks designed to safely carry liquids in bulk, TransGulf augments the Sunshine State’s own citrus production year-round, solving the limitations of an otherwise seasonal and unpredictable industry. “Florida is critical for us,” Lasheras says.

TransGulf has vessel and ground assets in Tampa, as well as Tuxpan on the banks of the Tuxpan River in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The Tuxpan River reaches the Gulf of Mexico in about 11 kilometers, or just under seven miles. As the nearest port to Mexico City, Tuxpan serves as a vital link for Mexican imports and exports.

The TransGulf partnership enables door-to-door transit times from points well within the Mexican interior that are comparable to over-the-road delivery times. TransGulf ensures that customers receive their perishables in pristine condition, Lasheras adds.

Transit time from Tuxpan to Tampa is just two and a half days on the water. On its weekly service, TransGulf deploys the 700-TEU cargo vessel M/V EMILIA, recently chartered from German interests. The northbound and southbound voyage schedule is available on the TransGulf website: www.transgulfship.com.

Refrigerated ocean containers carry up to 25 metric ton of cargo or 20 pallets of fresh produce. Refrigerated and dry warehouses on either side of the Gulf allow both refrigerated and dry goods shippers and third-party logistics (3PL) providers to manage their inventories in real time, while also offering an array of delivery, packing, storage, and customized loadout options—all from within secured locations at the company’s port facilities.

“We can assist cargo owners and 3PLs who currently have cross-border cargo or situations where continued trucking constraints are affecting their supply chain efficiency,” Lasheras says.

TransGulf is looking to add vessel capacity and develop additional cargo and port pair offerings in the near future, he adds.

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