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image of panel discussion

Doug Davidson, left, and Kevin Thibault, right, speak at the 2023 Florida Supply Chain Summit. 

Stakeholders talk technology, infrastructure and collaboration at 2023 Florida Supply Chain Summit

TAMPA -- With more than 100 rockets expected to launch from Florida’s Space Coast this year, the state’s economic outlook is expected to soar over the next decade, particularly in the aerospace industry.

That was one of the main takeaways from the 2023 Florida Supply Chain Summit, held this week in Tampa. The annual gathering attracted over 100 participants and brought together some of the state’s leading supply chain management experts, industry leaders, local and state government representatives, economic development agencies, and academics.

In its fourth year, the summit was held at The Westshore Grand hotel. Leaders from the Monica Wooden Center for Supply Chain Management and Sustainability at the University of South Florida Muma College of Business helped host the summit.

During the summit’s second day, panel discussions focused on ways to shore up the state’s transportation infrastructure — rail, roads, airports, seaports, and spaceports — in order to strengthen supply chain channels and promote Florida as a global trade hub.

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Laura DiBella, Florida's Secretary of Commerce, gives the opening remarks.

Laura DiBella, the Florida Secretary of Commerce and president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, gave the opening remarks.

DiBella heads the economic development arm of the state and emphasized the importance of a strong supply chain network to support the state’s economy, which is ranked No. 15 among the largest economies in the world.

DiBella described the state’s economic future as bright, spurred by a growing number of California companies relocating to Florida.

“Innovation is really driving the bus right now in our state. Aerospace and defense is Florida’s largest industry now. It just surpassed agriculture,” she said. “Space is going to be all of Florida. It will not just be relegated to the Space Coast. More space ports are coming online, so plan on that.”

DiBella said the state’s space industry will see more than 100 rockets launch this year.

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Monica Wooden and Bobby Harris speak at the 2023 Florida Supply Chain Summit.

Summit speakers included state transportation and trade officials, supply chain management consultants and business executives, and representatives from airports, railways, spaceports, transportation and seaports.

Panel discussions touched on the state’s major economic trends and outlined opportunities for trade and logistics improvement. Among the key points:

  • Florida’s growing population and economy. Projections estimate more than 3.5 million additional residents and 100 million additional annual visitors through 2030.
  • Manufacturing high-value goods for consumers to offset the trade and truckload imbalance. Truck drivers are delivering goods to Florida consumers but are leaving the state with empty or partially-empty loads.

“We need to make export manufacturing a priority in Florida. It’s not just to fill boxes, it fills bank accounts,” said Doug Davidson, project chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Trade and Logistics 2030 Study.

In addition, one job in manufacturing supports two additional jobs in a related industry, such as supply chain, retail and finance, he said.

Allen Clifford, the executive vice president at the Mediterranean Shipping Company, said one of Florida’s greatest assets is the young talent graduating from supply chain management programs across the state.

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Left to right: Chris Sawchuk, Kaylee Botts, and Allen Clifford speak on a panel.

“What Florida offers is more young people,” he said. “The value that younger people bring us is longevity. You need people who can give you longevity. Today, you have some really, really bright young people.” 

And the state’s multiple seaports and geographic proximity to South America only adds to the growth potential.

“I see tremendous opportunities to grow,” Clifford said. “You have multiple ports. You have the opportunity to cover the Latin Americas. You can get to and from anywhere from Florida. Florida offers a tremendous opportunity for an ocean transportation company that other places don’t.” 

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