Moving, Making, Multiplying
By Shantel Hanna
There is a conversation reaching a tipping point in economic development circles throughout the U.S. that the Orlando metro region is uniquely positioned for global impact.
Mick Fleming, president of the Association of Chambers of Commerce Executives headquartered in the nation’s capital and Vice Chairman of the World Chambers Federation Executive Committee, sees Orlando emerging as a world market leader in the 21st century. “With Orlando’s market diversification and its proximity to commercial centers in the western hemisphere,” he says, “it is a true contender to be a global market leader.”
Having served with the ACCE since 2001, Fleming has about as much experience on the subject as anyone. ACCE is dedicated to developing chamber professionals to lead businesses and their communities and Fleming’s office currently serves 1,400 chambers of commerce and other related organizations in the United States and Canada.
A confluence of factors is shaping up to give Orlando a unique platform on the changing perception of economic development in America and around the world.
In fact, Orlando is currently one of three cities and only one in the U.S. bidding to be host of the 11th annual International Chambers of Commerce World Chambers Congress (ICC WCC) to be held in 2019. The other two cities are both in South America—Bogota, Columbia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Orlando is also hoping to host the 2019 Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives annual meeting. These two events, being hosted in Orlando on consecutive weeks, translates into a full two-week summit on regional, national and international business and economic development that is historic.
Florida: A Growing Hub for International Trade
A graph of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the course of the past century draws a striking picture of how the economics of the world has changed – and accelerated – over a very short time in human history.
The graph is a line that extends nearly flat and straight until it spikes up severely like the blade of a hockey stick laying on its side. What does that mean in real business/consumer/economic terms? There is a rapidly growing opportunity for U.S. goods and services in an ever expanding global market. With a $17.4 trillion GDP (2014), the U.S. still has by far the largest economy in the world, but with the world GDP standing at more than $77.6 trillion, more than 78 percent of the potential market along with 95 percent of the world’s consumers come from outside the U.S.
The state of Florida, particularly Central Florida with Orlando as its hub, is uniquely positioned to see tremendous benefits from that market built on a unique combination of five areas of economic growth and attraction for international business opportunity:
PORTS Port Canaveral is the third busiest cruise port in the world and opens the region to shipping, travel and more.
SPACE Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center is the premier spaceport in the world and the historical home of space travel that today supports both public and private space enterprise.
ECOLOGY From miles of oceans and estuaries, to inland wetlands preservation and natural wildlife, Central Florida offers fertile ground for everything from ecological study to ecotourism.
TOURISM More than 66M people travel to Orlando each year making it the top tourist destination in the U.S.
BIOMEDICAL From medical city in Lake Nona to the extended heart of a vibrant university system, Orlando and Central Florida is home to an active and inventive biomedical business community.
SIMULATION Orlando is world renowned as a center for military simulation, but that reputation is swiftly expanding into medical, gaming and other major growth areas.
International trade is proving to be one of the strongest contenders in driving economic development in Central Florida and will expand throughout the state. Enhanced by Florida’s international and domestic visitors, increasing economic growth through spending and trading, the question becomes: How can Florida create new avenues to expand international trade potential?
“Central Florida is well positioned to take advantage of the smaller world through trade and investment. Orlando has outstanding corporate civic leadership among business leaders and I see a greater market status expanding,” Fleming said.
According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, more than one million of Florida’s high wage jobs depend on international trade. On average, jobs tied to international trade pay 16 percent more than their non-trade related counterparts.
With the challenge of Florida creating two million jobs by 2030 to sustain a six percent unemployment rate, international trade
has the potential of generating employment across the business spectrum.
In addition, Florida is uniquely positioned to capitalize on opportunities like the expanded Panama Canal. The canal provides access to Florida’s numerous seaports, enabling the state to become a global first point of entry, a realization that Port Canaveral and other Florida ports are quickly preparing for.
Florida not only has a geographical advantage when it comes to exports, it possesses a linguistically diverse population, excellent knowledge-based services and collaborative global ties.
Another unique fact is ninetysix percent of Florida’s exporters are small to midsized businesses. Surprisingly, each of these exporting companies generate 30 jobs within the warehousing/ retail, manufacturing, business services and transportation industries. According to Enterprise Florida, Florida ranked 6th in the U.S. in exports, generating $73 billion in merchandise exports in 2015.
Jim Thomas, the executive director of Orlando Inc. (Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce), said, “Florida, particularly Central Florida, is becoming an international trade powerhouse. The more we can connect entrepreneurs in international communities, the more they can grow their businesses.”
The Florida Chamber, trade and logistic strategy rests on three legs: move, make and multiply. Moving more trade through Florida’s sea, land and air gateways exploits Florida’s unique geographical positioning to transport goods around the world. Making, designing, refining and manufacturing more products for export in Florida in turn multiplies the impact of trade in the state. Although this strategy may sound simple and straightforward, it will certainly take a fair share of time and planning to best utilize Florida resources, geography and diversified workforce to accomplish these goals.
Helping Make Central Florida a Hub
The Central Florida International Trade Office’s vision is to be a hub of international commerce in Central Florida, creating a strong global presence and international trade economy. CFITO provides relevant international trade assistance and connections for Central Florida through research, educational seminars, trade delegations, and community partnerships. Since CFITO’s grand opening in March 2014, the organization has made tremendous strides.
CFITO has orchestrated ten inbound international delegations in Central Florida, from countries such as United Arab Emirates, China and Columbia. The “Friends of International Trade” was established in 2014, with a 400-plus registered membership base. Today, over 547 countries have been able to make inquiries to relevant trade connections in the community through CFITO, and the organization has proudly hosted over 25 educational seminars with over 1,043 attendees.
Bidding for Attention
As mentioned earlier, Orlando is currently bidding to host the 2019 World Chambers Congress. The conference convenes representatives from some 120 countries to exchange ideas on trade and best practices, uniting the chambers of commerce throughout the world, providing a platform for chamber and business leaders to communicate and collaborate with each other, to discuss mutual interests and help to establish beneficial partnerships.
The ICC WCC provides a unique opportunity for Central Florida to showcase the region as a global hub. These worldclass opportunities have impact on everyone in Central Florida, as there is no limit to the possibilities of economic expansion when reaching beyond our own boundaries, whether that is across the region or around the world.
But there is an added bonus for the region, “If Orlando is selected for the WCC, the American Chamber of Commerce would schedule their annual conference to coincide with the WCC. This would be a truly historic gathering, marking the largest Chamber of Commerce to be assembled in history,” Jim Thomas said. To date, the WCC has never been hosted in the U.S. Thomas envisions having representatives from every member country in the world, alongside representatives from every state in the U.S. The synergy and the potential is staggering