Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

The sun rises for global business

  • By
  • | 6:47 a.m. September 11, 2012
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • News
  • Share

SunTrust Bank, one of the largest regional lenders on the Gulf Coast, has zeroed on a strategy to grow its loan portfolio: Go global.

The Atlanta-based bank, with $178.3 billion in assets, has made the most SBA export working capital loans in the country for three straight years, from 2009 to 2011.

A large swath of those loans originate from the bank's Gulf Coast region, says SunTrust Southwest Florida President and CEO Margaret Callihan. “We recognize that one of the best opportunities for growth is with exports,” the Sarasota-based Callihan tells Coffee Talk. “We are seeing more and more clients expand (past) the domestic line.”

That expansion is manifold, and includes the following nuggets:
• Florida's exports grew 6.5% in the first half of 2012 over the first half of 2011, from $31.1 billion to $33.1 billion, an International Trade Administration report states. The administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, says some of the most prevalent export items shipped from Florida are computers and electronics, transportation gear and chemicals. Destinations for Sunshine State products include Canada, Colombia, Panama, Peru, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
• The number of businesses in Florida that export products has grown 76% since 2003, from 31,400 to more than 55,000, according to Enterprise Florida. The majority of those business, 95%, are small and mid-sized companies, with fewer than 500 employees.
• Florida's ratio of exports to total manufactured goods is the second highest in the country, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

SunTrust, in building its export loan portfolio, created a team of bankers with expertise in international business. That team, says Callihan, works with loan officers and departments from any SunTrust office.

Economic development officials statewide also want to capitalize on the export growth to fuel an even larger surge. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, for example, in less than two years in office, has already led trade delegations to Brazil, Canada, England, Israel, Panama and Spain. Scott is scheduled to visit Bogota, Colombia, in December.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce, moreover, set a goal in 2010 to double the amount of total exports shipped out of the Sunshine State by 2015. The businesses behind the exports, in most cases, need financing. “We want to be the bank for that,” says Callihan. “This is a big deal for us.”


Latest News


Special Offer: $5 for 2 Months!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.
Join thousands of executives who rely on us for insights spanning Tampa Bay to Naples.