Miami gains in Latin America market shares
Though trade activity is under pressure and we are competing with other strategic US and Latin American locations, experts say Miami-Dade has gained more investment market share than ever before as the business capital of Latin America.
“We’re facing greater competition from Savannah, GA; Houston, TX, and Mobile, AL, in terms of trading due to the ports. We also have some competition in Latin America, such as Panama and Kingston for the handling of cargo, but there is no question that Florida and South Florida remain the business center of the Americas,” said Manuel Mencia, senior vice president of international trade and development at Enterprise Florida.
Mr. Mencia said Miami-Dade is the specialized business center of the region, including in areas such as information technology, education, medical tourism and even shopping centers. “Developers choose to establish here more often than not,” he said.
Even though International Trade Administration data show that from 2007 to 2012 exports grew by 20.2% from the metropolitan area that includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach, Mr. Mencia said there has been some decline in the long term.
“But this area is still the center of relations between Latin America and the United States. Even politicians running for office make a fundraising stop in Miami, that’s how big of a role it plays. It’s a broad relationship,” Mr. Mencia said.
The closeness between Miami and the region is so strong, he said, that it has allowed South Florida to benefit from good and bad times in Latin America by either attracting investment or by shipping products to Latin American nations.
The foreign direct investment, as it is known in traditional terms when a company opens a subsidiary in a different country, doesn’t show the whole picture, Mr. Mencia said. “Many go under the radar because they are not multinationals, but businesses started by individuals here.”
“My assessment is that investment is increasing and the overall relationship has never been greater,” he said.
Calixto Garcia-Velez, region executive at First Bank Florida, agrees with that assessment. “Miami has continued to gain market share and it has strengthened. We are seeing significant investment from Latin Americans that are migrating and opening businesses here, such as the Venezuelans,” he said.
There has also been a great increase of companies from Spain, Mr. Garcia-Velez said.
One of the most substantial areas of investment from Latin America is real estate, he said, and Miami is also leading in exports of legal and engineering services to the region.
Miami has continued to blossom as the capital of Latin American businesses, said Robin Reiter, who until this week was interim president at the Beacon Council. “We continue to attract to businesses. We want to insure that it continues to be the gateway to the Americas,” she said.
Pamela Fuentes, vice president of International Economic Development at the Beacon Council, said the biggest pro-Miami factors for businesses from Latin America to come to Miami-Dade County are connectivity, quality of life, cultural scene, safety, geopolitical location and a highly entrepreneurial scene.
“We’re attracting lot of life and science as well as technology startups from Latin America,” she said, “and the business friendly environment is a plus.”