International Trade

Ed Moore shares his insight on how private universities and colleges are helping to prepare Northwest Florida for an expected explosion in international trade.

Business Speak International Trade By Dr. Ed Moore Originally published in the Aug/Sept 2011 issue of 850 Business Magazine

Innovative strategies are a critical component to achieve long-term economic success for Florida’s future. This is true whether in times of prosperity or financial hardship. Enhancing our state’s efforts in international trade will diversify our economy by attracting new businesses and industries and will help create quality jobs for Florida’s workers.

Florida is ideally situated as a global trading hub. Billions of dollars in goods come through our airports and seaports annually. The pending widening of the Panama Canal and growing global competition in the marketplace serve to focus our lawmakers and business community on the need for Florida to further pursue international business development in our state. Gov. Rick Scott has stepped up our efforts to ensure Florida remains a leader in the global marketplace. We can and must do better.

Northwest Florida, in particular, is making international trade a priority, since foreign investments and a strong trading market can make significant contributions toward the economic success of our region. In addition to having wonderful natural resources and a deep talent pool, Northwest Florida is ideally located with strong infrastructure systems that make it a prime area for investment and trade. There are multiple airports, railways and seaports to foster import and export activities. The region is home to two Foreign Trade Zones and important international manufacturing plants. There are also important ongoing efforts at the region’s seaports to expand current capacity to increase trading activities.

This enhanced Northwest Florida focus on international trade adds to the continued need for a strong, educated workforce. The Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) represents 29 not-for-profit colleges and universities in Florida. Our members serve more than 130,000 students and annually produce a third of all degrees at the bachelor level or above in Florida. More than half of our graduates stay in Florida following graduation, adding greatly to the talented workforce Florida needed to meet the growing demand for highly skilled workers as international trade begins to expand and flourish. More will stay here as opportunities develop.

Educational opportunities can be delivered in many ways, not always requiring brick and mortar buildings. ICUF member schools continue to develop creative ways to serve students, workers and businesses in Northwest Florida, while also helping meet the region’s need for educated employees. Many of our member institutions have developed partnerships with community-state colleges in the area, offering degree programs for students in the Panhandle.

Tallahassee Community College is a great example of this important partnership approach, offering degree programs from four ICUF institutions. This enables students in the Tallahassee region to have accessibility to obtain degrees from Flagler University, Barry University, St. Leo University and Embry Riddle University — without moving to main campuses. This is also a relatively low cost option to obtain a four year degree. With more than 100 sites, ICUF offers an array of options for students to attend our classes, preventing work and home situations from being obstacles to degree achievement.

ICUF continues to explore innovative learning opportunities to ensure all types of students from all parts of the state can have access to the degree options our institutions provide. ICUF institutions have taken advantage of the technological advancements of the digital age and now offer a wide variety of online courses and degree programs. Eleven of our universities offer more than 180 full degree programs. Currently, more than 32,000 students are taking advantage of these virtual classrooms. Where you live is no longer an obstacle to what you can learn.

The online programs offered by ICUF institutions provide an additional private college presence in the Northwest Florida region while attracting students who fall outside the “traditional” student model. This includes older students, parents raising children and those with full-time jobs who do not have the flexibility to attend scheduled classes on campus. It is critical we continue to expand opportunities for these types of students because they are important components in sustaining and expanding Florida’s workforce.

Our online programs allow residents to obtain a degree and expert training which ultimately helps many local businesses find qualified employees. By offering popular online degree programs like international business administration, entrepreneurship, global business management and MBA programs, we are ensuring our students have access to the fields critical to attracting foreign investments in Northwest Florida. The learning opportunities ICUF offers will also ultimately help students and our local communities succeed in a constantly changing, globalized marketplace. n