New Enterprise Florida CEO says upgrading seaports critical
By Claudio Mendonça
The upgrading of Florida's 14 seaports is critical for job creation in the state, says John A. Adams Jr., new president and CEO of the state's economic development agency, Enterprise Florida.
The improvement of marine terminals becomes even more vital as the DR-Central America Free Trade Agreement takes shape, Mr. Adams said. DR-CAFTA is a treaty among the US, five Central American countries - Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama - and the Dominican Republic that lowers trade barriers.
"CAFTA countries combined are Florida's number-one export destination," said Mr. Adams. "The passing of CAFTA is pivotal for us."
Companies, he said, are consolidating shipments in Miami and barging products to Mexico and Central America.
There is a need to improve ports around the state, Mr. Adams said, because Pacific harbors are becoming choked by excessive Asian imports as oriental exporters rediscover the Panama Canal.
"Seventy percent of the freight coming to Miami is through Panama," said Mr. Adams. "It is good business for Asian companies to come to a Florida port. China and major companies are looking for alternatives such as Miami and Port Everglades."
Mr. Adams replaced Darrell Kelley as CEO of Enterprise Florida in November after working as an economic development official in Laredo, TX. Gov. Jeb Bush, who serves as Enterprise Florida's board chairman, recommended Mr. Adams from among three finalists for the job.
In 1998, Mr. Adams was named exporter of the year by the US Small Business Administration for his work at a medical products manufacturer. He later moved on to banking, where he advised multinational companies on foreign trade.
In addition to upgrading ports, Mr. Adams wants to prioritize job training in South Florida. According to the South Florida Workforce, there is a scarcity of qualified workers, especially in the construction and medical field.
"There are shortages of skilled workers across the board," said Marie Bertot, spokesperson for the South Florida Workforce.
"We are investing in job training, which is critical these days," Mr. Adams said. "We need to remain working with community colleges. We want to enhance workforce connection to keep jobs and attract foreign investment retention."
He said Florida is a bustling business hub despite its lack of Fortune 500 companies' headquarters.
"We can use the expertise of shippers and banks," he said. "We have a strategic advantage combination of ports and know-how in the banking sector. I am impressed with know-how capabilities and expertise in South Florida."
Mr. Adams, however, stresses that the state has interest in attracting big corporations.
"Yes, we are after flagship companies, but just as important we have small and middle-size companies that feed," he said. "We have dozens of companies in Florida supplying the nuts and bolts to companies such as Boeing, Dell and General Motors. We want to continue to attract Fortune 500 companies, but if we create subsidiaries, we create as many or more jobs. Fortune 500 companies are great but won't provide as many jobs."