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USF Center for Supply Chain Management and Sustainability Poised to Take the Lead in Making Florida a Global Trade Hub

By Keith Morelli

Port Tampa Bay

TAMPA (November 9, 2018) -- The Sunshine State typically has been a Mecca for tourists, those seeking warmth in the winter, theme parks for the kids, maybe a cruise to the Caribbean. Tourism, for decades, has been the one of the state’s main money-maker. But now, a new industry may be taking root: global commerce.

In 2010, leaders in Florida’s public and private sectors recognized a singular opportunity to transform Florida’s economy by developing the infrastructure to become a global hub for trade, logistics and export-oriented manufacturing. Indeed, global trade played a key role in leading Florida out of the recession, adding 32,000 jobs between 2010 and 2012 and boosting exports to a record $66 billion.

Now, as the vision of the state as a global trade hub comes more into focus, the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business has created the Center for Supply Chain Management and Sustainability to work with industry leaders in meeting the challenges presented by this opportunity and to offer a global supply chain curriculum.

The center’s first statewide project: staging the inaugural Florida Supply Chain Summit scheduled for Feb. 6-7 in Orlando. The goal of the summit is to provide a platform for statewide collaboration among key representatives from industry, professional organizations, government, economic development agencies and higher education to advance Florida as a hub for international trade.

The summit aims to strengthen partnerships in the supply chain industry by providing opportunities to develop collaborative relationships, address industry issues and share knowledge about critical issues including emerging trends, technology innovations and workforce development. The event itself is the result of a collaboration between the center and Datex Corporation, a Clearwater-based supply chain software company. Executives at Datex donated the space for the summit at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and have provided significant guidance and support in developing the summit.

It is open to all stakeholders in Florida’s supply chain industry: retailers, wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, transportation experts, logistics providers and all economic, educational and governmental entities. To learn more and register, click here.

The program for the summit was developed by a statewide steering committee made up of representatives from industry, government and educational institutions. Panels of industry representatives will discuss Florida’s omnichannel challenge, the state’s emerging cold chain capability to move agricultural and pharmaceutical products, and innovative supply chain technologies including blockchain, autonomous vehicles, and cybersecurity.

Most industry leaders agree that Florida is uniquely situated to emerge as a hub for worldwide trade. There are 15 deep-water ports, 20 commercial service airports, 3,000 miles of freight rail tracks and 122,000 miles of flat highway systems. The state is the logical point to ship and receive freight from Central and South America, which it already does; Florida is across the Gulf of Mexico from the Panama Canal, opening up to the Pacific Ocean and the markets in the Far East. Already, the state has trading ties to industries in Europe and the Middle East.

“Each year more than $160 billion worth of goods flow through Florida's ports and airports, fueled by our strategic location and impressive trade support services,” says an Enterprise Florida fact sheet. “In fact, Florida is home to one of five U.S. exporters.”

To be a part of this new era, Florida businesses must excel in supply chain management and that’s where USF comes in, with its growing focus on supply chain management, research and education, said Donna Davis, co-director of the center and professor in the supply chain program.

“The center is the first of its kind in Florida and employs globally recognized faculty to tackle supply chain research and teach real-world, relevant material to undergraduate and graduate students,” Davis said. “Business partners challenged us to help fill the growing gap in the talent pool by expanding our 15-hour concentrations to two full degrees – a bachelor of science and a master of science in supply chain management,” she said. “The state approved our proposals, and the degrees are on track to be in place in fall of 2019,” Davis said.

The curriculum and training provided by supply chain professors and instructors seek to increase the number of supply chain management professionals across various industry segments. Over the next four years, employment in the supply chain industry is expected to grow by 22 percent, Davis said.

“The Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida identify ‘logistics and distribution’ as one of the five major industries for economic growth in the state,” Davis said.

Following the initial efforts in 2010, the Florida Chamber Foundation, in partnership with the state’s Department of Transportation and the Bank of America, released the Florida Trade and Logistics Study 2.0, a roadmap for boosting trade activity in Florida that examined opportunities, implementation of plans and how to build a consensus among public and private partners in support of this vision.

“As global trade and economic activity shift over the coming decades, international commerce can be an even more important driver of Florida’s future,” said the report’s executive summary. “The global economy is expected to double in size over the next 20 years, with more than one billion new consumers by 2020.”

The report also said: “The continued (global trade) shift in U.S. growth to the Southeast, rapid growth in Latin American and Caribbean markets, the widening of the Panama Canal, and the ‘near sourcing’ of global supply chains back to the Western Hemisphere all suggest that Florida could be at the crossroads of vital north/south and east/west trade lanes in some of the world’s most heavily traveled waters and airspace.”

The report outlines these six key strategies to align efforts by the state’s public and private leaders to position the state as global hub

  • Talent supply and education
  • Innovation and economic development
  • Infrastructure and growth leadership
  • Business climate and competitiveness
  • Civic and governance systems
  • Quality of life and quality places

This industry shift, the report said, “will refashion Florida’s global image and fundamentally transform Florida’s economy, creating thousands of high paying jobs in trade, logistics, export-oriented manufacturing and related services.”