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Report: Florida manufacturing is booming, rivals tourism

Florida ranks 10th in the U.S. for manufacturing employment, and the industry is poised for growth, according to the 2023 Florida Manufacturing report.

PGT Innovations, which was recently acquired, is one of the largest manufacturers in the Sarasota-Bradenton region.
PGT Innovations, which was recently acquired, is one of the largest manufacturers in the Sarasota-Bradenton region.
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Manufacturing is booming in Florida and rivals tourism and agriculture in the contributions it makes to the Sunshine State’s economy. 

That is one of several major findings from the 2023 Florida Manufacturing report recently released by FloridaCommerce and FloridaMakes, a public-private advocacy program for the industry.

“When you think about Florida and Florida’s identity and its brand, you don't necessarily attach it to manufacturing,” FloridaMakes CEO Kevin Carr tells the Business Observer.

Florida’s manufacturing output, or GDP, was $73 billion in 2022, an increase of nearly 68% from 2014 when it was $43.5 billion.

“There’s no similar growth to that across the country,” Carr says.

The number of employees in Florida's manufacturing industry and the wages they earn are also on the uptick, according to the inaugural Florida Manufacturing report. 

Florida reached 422,800 manufacturing workers in September 2023, passing both Georgia and New York to become the 10th largest state in the country for manufacturing employment.

Employees in the manufacturing industry earned on average $74,647 annually, which is 17% above the average annual wage for all industries in Florida, which is $63,811.

“At the end of the day, those are much higher-wage jobs than the average in Florida,” Carr says of manufacturing workers. “People in those sectors make a good living” and can afford things like buying a house or sending a child to college, he says.

The Florida Chamber Foundation set a goal for Florida to be in the top five for manufacturing employment nationwide by 2030, “If Florida enhances its focus on the importance of manufacturing and maintains its current acceleration in both manufacturing employment and its resulting manufacturing output,” the Manufacturing Report says, “it is very likely this goal will be achieved.”

Carr is a believer. 

"Florida is a manufacturing state," Carr says. “The one [sector] that's really driving a lot of it is aviation and aerospace. Florida is just in the sweet spot when it comes to growth. We’ve gone from a couple launches to over 100. That has done nothing but draw more companies into the state and that has helped change our chemistry.”

Aviation and aerospace manufacturing are the fastest-growing segments of manufacturing in Florida over the last 10 years, the report says, noting the state could grow its presence through avenues like manufacturing drones, satellites and electrical vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. A “vertiport” is already in development for the electrical aircraft in Orlando, which along with the Cape Canaveral area, presents a powerhouse of aviation and aerospace-related activity, the report notes.

Aircraft are not the only vessels being made in Florida. The Sunshine State leads the country in boat building, with marine manufacturing concentrated around the coasts, the report says.

The state is also the second-largest in medical device and equipment manufacturing, the report states. Contact lens manufacturing, in particular, was singled out as a strength and potential area for growth, with Jacksonville’s Johnson & Johnson Vision and Tampa’s Bausch & Lomb “producing a significant proportion of the contact lenses for the Western Hemisphere,” the report states. Contact lens manufacturing alone contributes $2 billion in revenue to the state each year, according to the report.

"That report is hopefully a wakeup call," Carr says. "When you look at manufacturing, you have to put Florida into the equation. It’s part of our brand that we don’t talk about yet in general.”



Elizabeth King

Elizabeth is a business news reporter with the Business Observer, covering primarily Sarasota-Bradenton, in addition to other parts of the region. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, she previously covered hyperlocal news in Maryland for Patch for 12 years. Now she lives in Sarasota County.

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