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Working with Florida’s Construction Leaders to Build New Opportunities for Communities

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Sánchez speaking at LBA event in Miami

Guest blog post by Francisco J. Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Secretary, Department of Commerce

Entrepreneurs are a major key to U.S. economic growth. Their ideas, creativity and pioneering spirit are among our nation’s greatest resources, and are helping to pave the road to recovery. 

That’s why the Commerce Department, under the leadership of Secretary John Bryson, is firmly committed to supporting American business owners in every way we can.  And, our partnership with the private sector is essential to this work which is why I traveled to Miami, Florida earlier today to meet with the Latin Builders Association (LBA).

Founded in 1971, the LBA is the largest Hispanic construction association in the United States. They have shaped skylines, built neighborhoods and made a significant impact on the South Florida area. And, every day, leaders like them are doing great work on the ground to do more than just rebuild our communities; they are committed to building a better and stronger America.

With this in mind, my message to them today was simple: We want to work with you to put people back to work. 

Obviously, we’ve come a long way since President Obama took office in 2009, and the U.S. economy was on the brink of collapse. There have been 21 straight months of private sector growth.  And, earlier today, it was announced that that the unemployment rate dropped to 8.6 percent, the lowest level since March of 2009. 

But, there is still a long way to go. Too many people are still unemployed. Too many businesses are still struggling to meet payroll. And, the sad reality is that the Latino community faces especially difficult challenges. 

Pew recently found that from 2005 to 2009, the median net worth of Latino households fell 66 percent, the most of any group. At today’s LBA event, we talked about working together to meet these great challenges. This desire for solutions eventually led us to the topic of exports.

As the Under Secretary of International Trade, I’ve seen just how critical this work is for the U.S. economy. Exporting opens up new markets and new customers for U.S. businesses, and that means more jobs. In fact, every billion in exports supports 5,500 American jobs. 

That’s why President Obama launched the National Export Initiative nearly two years ago; the goal is to double exports by the end of 2014. We’ve had great success. Last year, exports were up 17 percent and contributed to nearly half of the growth in the U.S. GDP.

Working with leaders like the Latin Builders Association is central to this success. One quick example: Recently, the LBA participated in a trade mission with Florida Governor Rick Scott. The U.S. Commercial Service—an arm of Commerce's International Trade Administration—hosted roughly 115 Florida companies and institutions in São Paulo, Brazil.

Just for background: the country has won the rights to host both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics; games-related investment over the next five years may reach $106 billion in infrastructure, construction transportation systems, port improvements and more. 

Clearly, there are an abundance of opportunities. And, while we’re still waiting on final numbers, Florida estimates that the mission will result in roughly $74 million dollars in total sales for Florida companies—yet another example of how doing business abroad is making an impact here at home. 

In recognition of these opportunities, and others throughout the world, I pledged to do all I can to help companies throughout the region to continue to find new opportunities overseas. I also reiterated the president’s commitment to creating jobs with a series of bi-partisan proposals as is outlined in the American Jobs Act.

Independent economists say that the plan would create up to two million jobs immediately. And, at the center of the American Jobs Act is $50 billion dollars in infrastructure investments that would put construction workers, engineers and architects to work repairing roads, bridges and schools. 

In Florida alone, these investments would place $1.6 billion into transit infrastructure that could support more than 20,000 jobs, and $1.3 billion in school infrastructure to support nearly 17,000 jobs.

Unfortunately, the American Jobs Act remains stalled in Congress. But, as President Obama has said, we can’t wait for them to take action.  Each American has the power within their hands to make a difference.

The Latin Builders Association has been making a difference for four decades, and I know will continue to lead us out of this economic recovery. 

It was a pleasure to meet with them today.  And I look forward to working with them—and all U.S businesses—in the future to increase U.S. exports, support jobs and strengthen the quality of life in our communities.

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