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Florida in USA

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Florida Overview

Contributed by Bilzin Sumberg

Florida continues to gain the attention of business leaders from all over the world thanks to its large skilled workforce, lack of a state personal income tax and a business-friendly regulatory environment. Florida, the nation's third-largest state with a population of 19.9 million, also attracts almost 99 million tourists each year. Those tourists help push Florida's gross domestic product (GDP) above $830 billion a year, which is more than such countries as Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland. Florida's economy is the fourth largest in the United States, and if Florida were a nation, it would rank as the 18th largest economy in the world. Floridians earn more than $840 billion in personal income each year, making Florida the top state in the Southeast in that category.

Florida's economic strengths include:

• A tourism industry employing 1.4 million Floridians to accommodate tourists who spend nearly $109 billion a year.

• A construction industry that is supported by a steady stream of new residents numbering almost 1,000 people per day.

• An agriculture industry that leads the Southeast in terms of farm income and produces 40% of the world's orange juice supply.

• A space industry that puts $4.1 billion into the state's economy and employs 33,000 Floridians in aerospace-related jobs.

Big companies are attracted by Florida's business-friendly tax structure and low operating costs. Smaller entrepreneurs are attracted by Florida's growth in high-tech services, software industry and health technology, especially in the medical and biotech fields.

International Hub 

Florida is an economic gateway to the Americas due to its geographic location, economic stability and multilingual workforce.

About 40% of all US exports to Latin and South America pass through Florida. Florida is home to more than 61,000 exporters, which makes it the second highest among the 50 states. In 2015, Florida companies exported more than $153 billion worth of goods to more than 200 countries. In addition, services worth another $38.5 billion were exported to clients overseas. Florida ranks third among the states as the largest exporter of high-tech goods and services.

Florida has one of the nation's most extensive transportation systems, with 19 commercial airports, 15 deepwater seaports, more than 12,000 miles of highway and almost 3,000 miles of rail network. Florida has three spaceports, two of which are among the nation's eight commercially licensed spaceports. Florida hosts multiple hubs for high-speed data transmission to Europe, Latin America and Africa.

Hospitality & Tourism 

Tourism continues to be a thriving sector for Florida. The first three quarters of 2016 were record-setting, with more than 85 million people visiting the state. Visitors to Florida were most likely to come from Canada, followed by the United Kingdom, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia.

Florida has earned the moniker 'Cruise Capital of the World'. The Sunshine State accounts for 38% of the cruise industry's spending nationwide, adding nearly $8 billion a year to Florida's economy.

Florida's seaports are responsible for more than 680,000 direct and indirect jobs and generate $96 billion in economic value through cargo and cruise ships. Maritime activities are responsible for 13% of Florida’s GDP, and the maritime industry generates $2.4 billion in state and local taxes. The cruise industry alone creates 130,000 jobs in the state that supply Floridians with $5.8 billion in wages. Florida ports are strategically positioned to take maximum advantage of the recent widening of the Panama Canal thanks to their proximity to the canal.

Public-Private Partnerships (P3) 

The use of public-private partnerships (P3s) has spiked in Florida. Three factors have contributed to the popularity of P3s: 1) aging infrastructure needs to be replaced; 2) public funds alone cannot finance the needed improvements; and 3) growing P3 success stories in places such as Canada and Europe have encouraged Florida officials to consider P3s more often.

The Florida Legislature added two laws in 2016 to encourage the use of P3s. The first law established uniform processes for public entities to enter into P3 agreements. The second law was designed to boost P3 participation among private companies by creating an exemption for unsolicited P3 proposals under the Public Records Act. The new laws originated from a task force appointed by the Florida Legislature that was charged with recommending guidelines to create a uniform P3 process in Florida.

Real Estate 

Florida's real estate market continues to steadily improve. Single-family home sales increased by nearly 11% year-over-year, with the median sale price rising 10%, from $178,000 to $196,000. Condo sales improved by 5.1%, with the median sale price increasing nearly 8%, from $139,000 to $150,000.

Foreign investment is still a big part of Florida's real estate market as the state is the top US destination for foreign homebuyers. About 22% of foreign buyers nationally bought in Florida, with the average transaction topping $477,000. For all buyers, the average price was $266,000. While 36% of Florida's foreign buyers come from Latin America and the Caribbean, Florida is also the number one target for Canadian buyers.

Foreign buyers have seen investment opportunities beyond the residential, as is evidenced by their investment of $2.3 billion in Florida commercial real estate.


Florida's workforce is ranked most skilled in the nation by the US Chamber of Commerce, and Florida has the fifth largest workforce for high-tech employment, according to TechAmerica. Since no Floridian lives more than 50 miles from a college or university, businesses get a constant flow of skilled employees.

Florida ranks as the third largest state for high-tech establishments, according to TechAmerica. Florida has a growing number of industry clusters, such as aviation/aerospace, cleantech, life sciences, infotech and defense/homeland security.

Florida is also home to many leading research institutes and companies such as Draper Labs, Florida Solar Energy Center, Max Planck and Scripps. About $7 billion is invested annually in research and development in Florida. Not only is Florida home to tech incubators and university-based research hubs, its universities are also responsible for more than $500 million of sponsored research each year.