Manny Mencia, senior vice president for international trade and development at Enterprise Florida, is the guiding force behind one of America’s leading trade, export development, and foreign direct investment organizations. Mencia attributes much of Florida’s international success over the past two decades to the state’s decision to privatize its economic development activities.

“In 1996, Florida became the first state in the country to place principal responsibility for economic development, international trade, research and business image marketing in the hands of a public-private partnership,” he says. “We were the first state in the United States to privatize economic development.”

In a recent video interview with ThinkGlobal, Mencia said, “The idea was to combine government resources with the energy and the initiative of the private sector. This helped Florida move from its traditional economic drivers of tourism and agriculture to a sophisticated mix of industries and international business.”

In terms of export promotion, privatization has helped fuel the state’s trade growth. Since 1996, exports have tripled, growing from $20.7 billion to nearly $60 billion in 2014. Among Florida’s key export industries are agriculture, aerospace, life sciences and cleantech.

“When it can be demonstrated that a public-private partnership structure is likely to achieve… better results than a state agency, the decision to privatize certain state economic development activities can be a smart one,” says Jonathan Morgan, associate professor of public administration and government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. “If structured well, a public-private partnership can accelerate and strengthen a state’s economic development efforts by bringing together the ‘best of both worlds’ from the public and private sectors in ways that elevate the level of play and performance across the board.”

As North America’s principal commercial gateway to Latin American, more than $153 billion in goods flowed through Florida’s airports and seaports in 2014.

Florida is the seventh largest exporting state in the U.S., and a leading international business hub. The state's unique combination of strategic geographic location, state-of-the-art infrastructure, multilingual workforce, and concentration of corporate and financial resources creates a solid foundation for global trade.

In fact, as North America’s principal commercial gateway to Latin American and the Caribbean, more than $153 billion in goods flowed through Florida’s airports and seaports in 2014.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Florida is home to more than 61,000 exporting companies — second only to California. About 20 percent of American companies that export are located in Florida.

Florida also is a leading exporter of services, including high value-added services. Examples include accounting, communications, consulting, engineering, financial, legal, medical, transportation, and many other services. “When it comes to export promotion and international trade development, international businesses is arguably more important to Florida than, I would think, almost any state in the United States,” says Mencia.

Florida also is a leader in attracting foreign direct investment, ranking 6th among all U.S. states in employment by majority foreign-owned firms. Foreign-owned companies employ more than 245,000 workers in the state.

For companies interested in relocating to Florida and/or in using the Sunshine State as a springboard for exporting, the best place to start is on the Enterprise Florida website at


Greg Sandler
About The Author Greg Sandler
Greg Sandler is the president of ThinkGlobal Inc., a new media, content development, and video production company. An expert in B2B marketing and international business, Greg consults with a wide range of organizations, government agencies and private sector partners.

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