A boost for South Florida’s economy
BY BILL JOHNSON
In a move that enhances Miami-Dade County’s status as a center for international trade and commerce, the U.S. Department of Commerce this week provided a grant of authority for PortMiami Foreign Trade Zone No. 281, a new mega-Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) that stretches north from Southwest Eighth Street to the Broward County line. The new zone will be among the nation’s first to operate under new, streamlined processes.
This is great news for our Miami-Dade County business community, as we work to establish conditions that will fuel job-creation and boost our economy. FTZs provide a valuable tool to private industry — importers/exporters, warehouse operators, manufacturers — encouraging new commerce by allowing U.S. companies to compete on equal footing with foreign countries in both domestic and international markets.
An FTZ allows for the deferral or reduction of tariff payments on imported goods and materials until they move into the domestic marketplace and, if the finished product is exported to foreign markets, no tariffs are collected at all.
In a tough economy, FTZs are a powerful mechanism to keep good jobs in the United States and to advance manufacturing in Florida.
The benefits of foreign trade zones are tailor-made for Miami, as our Customs District leads the nation in producing a trade surplus, exporting 1.5 times what we import. Yet, despite the natural linkage between South Florida’s international trading patterns and the benefits of FTZ designation, we have been greatly under-represented in the number and size of FTZ sites across the country.
As reported by the National Association of Foreign Trade Zones last month, impressive growth in merchandise received in, and exports from, foreign trade zones has outpaced comparable growth in the overall U.S. economy as the nation continues to recover from a devastating recession. During FY 2010, the last year data is available, FTZ exports totaled $34.8 billion, a 23 percent increase from the previous year outpacing the 16 percent growth in exports generated by the overall U.S. economy during the same period. If those statistics are any indication, Miami-Dade County is now poised to reap the significant economic benefits of FTZs.
In addition to the seaport, the new FTZ-281 encompasses powerful economic engines including Miami International Airport and Opa-locka Airport, as well as the Miami River and the Doral/Hialeah warehousing areas. Additionally there are more than 100 international consulates, trade offices and binational chambers of commerce within the zone.
We’re grateful that the U.S. Department of Commerce agreed with our initiative to create this new mega-FTZ. Combined with the deepening of the Port’s channel to 50 feet to allow the docking of super-sized container cargo ships, the re-introduction of on-dock rail, and the new port tunnel now under construction, the new FTZ-281 will greatly increase our ability to manufacture goods as well as move cargo through Miami. That means more commerce, more jobs and more opportunities for our residents. And, it means that Miami-Dade County will further cement its rightful place as a leading center for international trade and commerce.
Nobody does “trade” like Miami. And, now we will do it better than ever.
Bill Johnson is the director of PortMiami.