Significant amounts of international money are going into Florida real estate, local and international officials said Thursday at the Metro Orlando International Summit.
The event, held in at Disney’s Contemporary Result and hosted by the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission — which works in Orlando and Lake, Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties — addressed such issues as the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), threats to international trade, and Florida’s role in global commerce.
French consul general Christophe Bouchard said in a morning panel that if other nonindustrial business such as real estate investments were introduced, than France was the foremost Florida investor.
“The real estate is booming here,” Bouchard said after the panel. He said French investors mostly focused upon South Florida, but had speculated a bit in Central Florida as well.
He said that while an industrial business venture may entail consideration of more factors, real estate allows investors to capitalize on Euro-dollar exchange rates. One Euro was worth $1.18 in the United States as of a little after 8:20 p.m. Thursday.
Bouchard said that French real estate investments weren’t generally spread across the whole United States.
“It’s really something special with Florida,” Bouchard said. He said that there was a global trend for northern residents to move south, but California’s land was too expensive for investment, and Texas wasn’t as easily accessible as Florida.
“It’s quite convenient for European people,” Bouchard said. “It’s just in front.” If an investor wanted to speculate in East Coast real estate, he said, “the choice would be Southeast.”
Fellow panelist Canadian consul general Anthony Krill said after the panel that Canadians were also buying residential properties — personal condominiums more than large tracts of real estate.
Krill said that as in America, the Canadian population was aging. “They’re looking seriously at the Sun Belts,” he said.
Besides Americans, Canadians were buying the most residences in the state, Krill said. One Canadian dollar was worth 71 cents in the U.S. as of a little before 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
Leesburg economic development director Ken Thomas and Sumter County Economic Development Council executive director Diana Lee said that they had seen foreign investors buying land in their respective counties.
“They’re dumping money,” Thomas said. He said it was a seller’s market and local brokers were having a “wonderful time.” In addition to France and Canada, he said Saudi Arabia was also involved in Central Florida real estate.
Thomas said the content of the summit was applicable locally as many companies found in Lake County were actually international businesses, and international companies were running out of room in South Florida to locate. “They’re gonna be coming north,” he said.
He said local companies also did business abroad although not a “predominantly” large number of them.
One of these firms, Tavares-based G&T Conveyor Company Inc., both sponsored and sent representatives to the summit.
“We’re looking to spread throughout the world,” G&T president John Majewski said. He said free trade was inevitable but said he was more interested in “fair trade than free trade.”
For example, he said, G&T could never compete with Chinese firms due to China’s lack of labor and environmental regulations — although he said China couldn’t compete with U.S. technology.
He said that foreign trade in was also difficult because of the lack of patent protection abroad — G&T manufactures luggage handling equipment — and G&T did not want its technology “spewed across the world for free.”
When asked if free trade without regulation enforcement was putting the cart before the horse, he said that the issue was philosophical. One could either forgo trading with a country altogether or “tease them a little bit” with products before attempting to administer trade regulations.