07/03/2012 07:01 pm ET Updated Sep 02, 2012

Strong International Trade Boosts Local Miami Beach Economy

Take a stroll through South Beach, or virtually any part of Miami Beach, and you can hear such a variety of languages you could be at a World's Fair. Its strong international flair is one of the things that draws so many people to the City of Miami Beach, and drawing stronger international commerce to Miami Beach will help to increase job growth, make us more resilient to economic fluctuations and help to further enrich our community in a number of ways.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the month of May, the Miami-Miami Beach -Kendall area registered an unemployment rate of 9.8 percent, that's higher than the national rate of 8.2 percent, and does not include those who have stopped looking for work, those who've made due with part-time work or other marginally attached workers. There is no doubt that international trade initiatives can help us turn the corner. Here are some examples of efforts already underway, along with ideas for keeping the momentum going.

Through my involvement with the Global Business Access Council (GBAC), and as a strong supporter of Miami Beach's Sister Cities program, I'm working closely with other professionals in creating partnerships that promote trade and economic development. Trips to Beijing and Shanghai, China and Fujisawa Japan helped in the launch of a global business access network. The partnerships formed through the GBAC and the Sister Cities program helped bring major trade events like the China and India Sourcing Fairs to Miami Beach, introducing 500 Chinese companies and 42 Indian companies to active buyers.

On the other side of the bay, the China Latin American Trade Center is looking to help 600 to 800 Chinese businesses easily reach Latin American companies by establishing a Miami-based China trade center. Commerce with Asia, and specifically China, is booming -- U.S. goods and services trade with China totaled $539 billion in 2011 -- and the development of such a center will help to further establish economic and cultural relations with this super important market.

The Miami International Airport has been working on creating direct Asia-to-Miami flights, to further increase international trade opportunities. A direct passenger route to Asia would make it easier for area business owners to travel to Asia to promote their own goods or connect with Asian manufacturers.

Right in our own backyard, we've hosted premier and high-profile tradeshows, conferences and events that attract international audiences and markets, as well as media attention that serves to energize the tourism sector. There's the World Trade Center Miami's Annual America's Food and Beverage Show, Miami Beach International Fashion Week, Art Basel Miami Beach and the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

International trade is one of my key initiatives as a commissioner, and as president of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, I'm very involved in promoting international commerce too. I've helped local business owners expand the boundaries of their professional networks, while creating innovative programs that educate and empower. For example, last year I helped organize the quarterly Pillar Trustees breakfast, which focused on international trade insights relevant to Miami Beach's global economy, with Alejandra Castillo, National Deputy Director of the Minority Business Development Agency of the US Department of Commerce as the keynote speaker.

In Miami Beach we are experiencing noticeable growth in tourism, infrastructure projects and certain transportation segments, but in terms of job growth, we lag behind the country and the state of Florida. We need to be innovative and strategic in bringing jobs to the city. To that end, I'm working to identify state and federal agencies that offer programs aimed at stimulating trade. It will provide a key economic boost, serve to heighten the city's vibrant cosmopolitan culture and can profoundly affect international relations in unprecedented ways.