In the weeks ahead, our New Miami Blog will present a series that asks how Miami can become the nation’s premier center for education, innovation and entrepreneurship in global trade. Beginning with PortMiami Director Juan Kuryla, we will invite community leaders in logistics, trade organizations, shipping, real estate, education, finance and technology to share their insights and ideas for securing Miami’s position as the nation’s pre-eminent export gateway.

Proclaiming that it is “Big Ship Ready,” PortMiami has been counting the days until the expanded Panama Canal opens for business next year. With $2 billion invested in the new tunnel, the deep dredge of the Miami Channel, the restoration of on-dock rail service and new super-sized cargo cranes, PortMiami will be the first port of call on the Asia-to-U.S. trade route that will be able to efficiently accommodate the Post-Panamax mega-ships.

Amid great fanfare, those enormous ships from Asia will arrive soon, heavily laden with goods to entice and delight consumers throughout America. But what will happen if the cargo holds of those great ships leave our port empty or half-empty?  Will they then start to by-pass Miami and seek other ports of call where the ratio of imports to exports is less lopsided?

The Florida Chamber of Commerce states that Florida has the second highest number of exporters in the United States, but less than 10% of Florida’s manufacturers and select professional service providers export. When surveyed, 75% of non-exporters said that they did not know what to do to export. It is a deficiency that needs to be remedied.

The strategic advantages of Miami’s geography, infrastructure, international stature and timing present an unprecedented opportunity to expand our community’s footprint in the global economy. It is a time-sensitive opportunity that we cannot afford to squander.