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Florida's Economy

Florida's economy is diverse and growing. The economic base is changing as the world's economy changes. Florida has a number of advantages as it pursues markets internationally.

Florida Employment By Industry in 2000

On America's coastline, Florida was a natural place for military bases during World War II. At the end of the war, experiments on those bases led to the space program, now located at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. The space program drew high-tech industry to the state, and created a climate of innovation that Florida strives to maintain. High-tech and global industries are an important part of Florida's economy.

Florida's economy is as rich and diverse as its history and population. From its agricultural beginnings to its present-day mix of industries and opportunities, Florida's geographic and cultural advantages have helped its economy grow and change as times required.

Space Shuttle

Agriculture and Natural Resources
Once the backbone of Florida's economy, agriculture still plays an important role. Florida grows about three-quarters of the nation's citrus fruits. After freezes nearly wrecked the citrus industry in the 1890s, Florida farmers began growing vegetables as well. Today Florida ranks second only to California in the amount of vegetables produced. Nearly 30 percent of all of Florida's land is in farm acreage, with another 37 percent in commercial forests. Mining is important too, with a quarter of the world's phosphate, useful for fertilizer, coming from Florida. Fishing is an industry conducted from both Gulf and Atlantic coastal ports and the Florida Keys, with markets on the East Coast and in the Midwest.

Florida manufacturing grew rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of the growth was in processing citrus products, but clothing, chemical, and other businesses attracted by the space program developed too. Electrical and electronics employment now lead in the number of manufacturing jobs. The Florida High-Tech Corridor, from coast to coast in the center of the state, produces many of the jobs that rank Florida fourth in the nation in high-tech employment.

Although social services and retail trade employ more workers, tourism is the largest income-producing industry in Florida. Originally a winter destination, Florida now attracts visitors year-round with its theme parks, recreational activities, national parks, golf courses, and coastal cruises. Florida's modern transportation systems, including highways, rail, and air traffic, bring in visitors for business and pleasure from all corners of the nation and world. In addition, 15 ocean ports serve both recreation and commerce.

Florida's Economy in the Future
Florida's economy is changing, as it looks to the future. Heavy industry is not as successful as it once was, and service jobs, such as in government, health care, and tourism, are becoming an even more important part of the economy. One reason for these changes is globalization, the linking together of nations through trade. Globalization spreads commerce around the world through common markets, trade agreements, and common standards and money exchange.

Some trade agreements, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) eliminate trade barriers between nations in the hopes of increasing export markets. Trade increases, and sometimes jobs are lost too. In any case, global markets are increasingly important.

Florida has some real advantages in global business. Florida's central location in the Americas is just as important today as it has been throughout history. Florida has workers who are multilingual, or able to speak more than one language. Florida has first-rate airport facilities and deepwater ports. Florida has both national and international banking and financial institutions. The state government and private business have formed an organization called Enterprise Florida to encourage high-tech and global business.

As Florida enters the twenty-first century, it looks to both a past and a future of economic growth. Challenges in education, finance, and providing services remain as Florida prepares its workforce for the rest of the century.