Since Manatee County began climbing out of the Great Recession, we've seen another boom in residential construction, home sales and tourism. This has been great news to local businesses and employees.
The Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. joins in celebrating this bounceback from a dismal period for our local economy. But we know that what booms also can bust. That's why we diligently pursue ways to diversify the local economy beyond our traditional industries.
One focus is "going global" -- ramping up Manatee County's share of international trade and foreign direct investment.
International trade is easy to understand: it is the exchange or export of goods or services along international borders. Statistically, exporters grow 15 percent faster, pay 15 percent higher wages and are 15 percent more profitable than non-exporting businesses.
The EDC looks for ways to help local businesses export their goods or services overseas, and we work with trade-oriented assets like Port Manatee to boost the flow of goods through their operations.
"How-to-export" workshops allowing local businesses and trade missions to visit overseas businesses are examples of how we seek to grow Manatee County's import-export share.
Foreign Direct Investment may not be as easy to understand.
FDI occurs when a foreign company invests in a U.S. business enterprise either by opening a new operation or through a merger or acquisition. The foreign company must hold a majority stake in the U.S. operation to be considered "foreign-owned."
Why should FDI matter to Manatee County's economy? The Brookings Institution published a report in 2014 analyzing the impact of FDI on the U.S. economy. Among the findings:
In 2012 alone, more than $80 billion flowed into the U.S. manufacturing sector.
Foreign-owned companies contribute nearly 20 percent of all corporate dollars spent on research and development in the United States, fueling the country's innovation enterprise.
In 2011, foreign firms accounted for one-fifth of all U.S. goods exports.
Even beyond the dollars, when foreign companies enter a mar
ket, they bring new production technologies, knowledge and management practices.
These generate what economists call "spillovers" as they spread through supply chains, labor markets, product markets, and to competitors.
The Brookings study included a look at the metro area that includes Manatee County (North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton). A sampling of findings:
The number of foreign-owned establishments grew from 7,310 to 9,560 between 1991 and 2011.
The share of total private employment in these establishments fell slightly, from 4.8 percent in 1991 to 4.4 percent in 2011. The national average is 5 percent.
The top five industries for percent of total jobs in foreign-owned establishments in 2011 were frozen and canned foods; grocery stores; employment services; investigation and security; and advertising services.
For more on the study, visit brookings.edu/metrofdi.
The Brookings study shows that Manatee County has an excellent opportunity to expand on the benefits derived from becoming a hub for foreign-owned operations.
The EDC's new strategic plan includes several initiatives to capitalize on that opportunity, including developing a distribution and logistics business park on land adjacent to Port Manatee.
We will continue conducting targeted foreign trade missions and co-hosting visits from overseas trade representatives to Manatee County.
We will also keep working to educate and assist local companies on growing their export sales.
You can learn more about the strategic plan at thinkbradentonarea.com.
Manatee County has dipped its toe into the ocean of international trade and foreign direct investment. It's time now to dive in.
Sharon Hillstrom, president and chief executive officer of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp., may be contacted at email@example.com or 803-9036.