Articles

Business leaders discuss international trade at USF

Speakers at the Florida:Made for Trade conference

Every job in export manufacturing supports three other jobs.

That number was the driving force behind the recent "Florida: Made for Trade" conference held at USF on June 4 to encourage businesses to take advantage of the opportunities exporting offers. The event, which was sponsored by the Florida Chamber Foundation and hosted by USF's new Center for Supply Chain Management & Sustainability, brought businesses from across Florida to discuss of how to fund the export process, the benefits to businesses of exporting, and the talent being trained by USF and other institutions to meet the workforce needs throughout the state.

Donna Davis, co-director of the Center for Supply Chain Management & Sustainability along with Marketing Professor Jim Stock, spoke about USF's role in closing the talent gap. She cited the statistic that for every job opening in manufacturing, there are six vacant positions. She also spoke about USF's recent partnership with Career Source Tampa Bay to give students import/export experience.

"We tell students to think of the internship as a long job interview," Davis said. "We try to do a good job matching students with companies at the outset, but it's also a chance for employers to see, do they have what it takes to succeed and are they a good fit?"

The event also attracted state representatives who gained and shared information about what they felt exports could do for Florida's economy, especially considering the upcoming expansion of the Panama Canal.

"Strong economies are built on three things: you make it, you mine it, or you grow it," said Representative Lake Ray (who represents District 12 in Jacksonville), adding that he saw export manufacturing as a way for Florida to grow its economy and for businesses to increase prosperity. State Representative Amanda Murphy was also in attendance, and said she hoped to learn more about the opportunities for Florida business.

The Florida Chamber used the opportunity to share the results of the Florida Trade & Logistics Study 2.0 completed in 2013.

"Florida is second only to California in the number of companies that are already exporting," said Gary Andresen, senior vice president of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which sponsored the study.

Tony Carvajal, executive vice president for the Florida Chamber Foundation, noted that 60 percent of everything that comes into the U.S. starts out on the West Coast.

"That's a shame," he said. "If we can change this, we can really make a difference in lives in the State of Florida."

"We move $20 billion worth of goods that are not made in Florida," he continued, adding that the high competition in the field indicated the high payoff. "If there weren't opportunity, other places wouldn't be trying to capture it."

Jerry Custin, president and CEO of the Upper Tampa Bay Manufacturers Association, said that to make increased exporting possible, it would be necessary to close the gap in the skilled workforce. He said USF and other higher education institutions would be crucial to that effort.

"We've got to push innovation," he said.

Eileen Rodriguez from the Small Business Development Center at USF spoke about the services available to help companies expand internationally, and Muma College of Business leadership echoed the importance of global business in USF's vision.

"Exports are the key to economic prosperity. What you're doing here is so important to our state," said Moez Limayem, dean of the USF Muma College of Business, as he welcomed the attendees. "Here at USF, we're so proud to make global impact and business engagement our strategic priorities."

The event was sponsored by the Florida Chamber Foundation, Small Business Development Center, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, USF World and the USF Muma College of Business Center for Supply Chain Management & Sustainability. You can view pictures from the event on our Facebook gallery.