by Sean McManus
Two years ago, the Chamber of Commerce wanted to know where Jacksonville was doing business internationally.
It conducted a survey of where local companies are importing and exporting, building factories, forging alliances and sending representatives on fact finding missions. They also wanted to know how Jacksonville compared with Florida and the rest of the United States.
The results of the survey conducted by the International Department of the Chamber and the local World Trade Center was presented Tuesday during a business forum at Jacksonville University.
Joanne Emslie-Korn of the Chamber presented the study to about 50 local business people and students interested in international commerce.
“We polled about 100 companies that we knew were active in the international field,” said Emslie-Korn. “We wanted to see how markets were changing and where we should be focusing our attention.”
What they found was that there were marked differences between 2000 and 2001 and that Northeast Florida differed significantly from South Florida.
Two years ago, the top five countries engaged in commerce with Jacksonville were Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Puerto Rico (representing the Caribbean in general) and Germany. That means overall commerce, including import and export transactions.
In the 2001 study, however, Canada and Mexico were tied for first, followed by the United Kingdom, Korea, China and Germany.
“What we have is a much greater interest overall in Asia,” said Emslie-Korn. “The United Kingdom’s presence was more reflective of the United States as a whole and resulted from Jacksonville’s increasing role in mainstream economic trade. NAFTA certainly plays a big role always.”
The United States does $1 billion in trade a day with Canada and one half billion with Mexico.
In Florida, the top five were Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Costa Rica and Venezuela.
The Chamber’s role is to internalize the data and employ it in a way that helps small businesses take advantage of international opportunity. Total international trade in Jacksonville doubled between 1993 and 1999 and the numbers continue to grow.
“Our top exports are forest products, building materials, medical and health care products and steel,” said Emslie-Korn.
Transportation equipment, leather goods and food products topped the import list.
And as for differences between North Florida and South Florida, climate seems to play a role. South Florida does more business with Spain and Italy, Jacksonville works with the Netherlands and Germany.
When companies were asked what information would help them explore international opportunity, China topped the list. As a result, the Chamber and FCCJ have started the Chinese Business Education Center to help local companies navigate through the changes in China resulting from its admittance to the World Trade Organization.
Companies also want more market intelligence information on Europe, new security regulations and how small companies can compete against large multi-nationals.