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Florida's economic future is bright

People around the world understand that Florida offers an unmatched combination of "pro-business" policies as well as an incredible quality of life. But the international interest in Florida is not limited to doing business in the Sunshine State. With the expansion of the Panama Canal — and the proximity to the canal from a number of Florida ports — our state is seen as the gateway to emerging markets in Central and South America. Today, one in six jobs in Florida is supported by international business — and that number is expected to increase significantly.

Over the last month, I have had the opportunity to meet with government and business leaders from Japan and Italy —including the Japanese ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki, and the president of Umbria in Italy, Catiuscia Marini. One thing is clear from these meetings — the world is eager to do business with, and in, Florida.

In fact, over the last four years, I have met with leaders from more than 30 countries to discuss opportunities for increased trade and tourism for Florida. Our state is highly regarded around the world. Almost every leader I have met with has vacationed in Florida. After coming here for fun, government and business leaders from around the globe are now looking for opportunities to come here for business.

People around the world understand that Florida offers an unmatched combination of "pro-business" policies as well as an incredible quality of life. But the international interest in Florida is not limited to doing business in the Sunshine State. With the expansion of the Panama Canal — and the proximity to the canal from a number of Florida ports — our state is seen as the gateway to emerging markets in Central and South America. Today, one in six jobs in Florida is supported by international business — and that number is expected to increase significantly.

The increased international interest in Florida coincides with the recently released Economic Competitiveness Index released by the American Legislative Exchange Council and economist Arthur Laffer. According to the index, the five states in America with the brightest economic future are Utah, Colorado, Texas, South Dakota, and Florida — in that order. It is worth noting that Florida is the highest ranked state in the Southeast.

The index is based on 15 indicators. Florida scores well in many areas. We are 37th in property tax burden, 39th in the sales tax burden and 45th in the burden of remaining taxes. Thanks to our constitutional prohibition of a state income tax, we are, of course, 50th in that category.

Our state is also trending in the right direction. In 2008, Florida was No. 16 on the index. Last year, we were 11th. N,ow we are fifth. Based on the Economic Competitiveness Index, Florida's economy appears well-positioned to turn around sooner than most states in the country.

Of course, Florida's economy does not operate in a vacuum. National and international economic conditions impact our state's bottom line. But as the economy rebounds, it appears that the world is ready to do business in Florida, and our state's economic future is bright.

Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp is Florida's 17th lieutenant governor. His serves as chairman of Space Florida, chairman of Florida's Children and Youth Cabinet, and oversees the Office of Drug Control.

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