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With or without the Rays, Canada does significant business with the Tampa Bay area

The Canadian and Florida economies go together like, well, palm fronds and maple leaves, as seen outside the Sweetwater RV Resort on Chancey Road in Zephyrhills. (Times file photo)
Published Jun. 24

Suddenly Montreal is on our radar in a very big way. But business with Canada is and will be an everyday fact of life for countless local companies whether or not the Tampa Bay Rays manage to follow through on their idea of playing some "home" games in Montreal.

Thousands of Canadian snowbirds flock here for the winter and spring training. Some buy homes and pay local property taxes. Scores of Canadian companies have operations here, and some Tampa Bay-based companies have offices and plants there. Canada is a big trading partner for both the bay area and Florida as a whole.

Here's a quick overview, with information from a 2018 Canada-Florida Economic Impact Study done by the Canadian government, the U.S. International Trade Administration and Enterprise Florida.

SNOWBIRDS

The folks with the blue-and-white "Je me souviens" license plates may be the most commonplace manifestation of the economic ties between Florida and Canada.

No fewer than 350,000 Canadians spend three to six months in Florida, according to the Toronto-based Canadian Snowbird Association. Nearly 100,000 more spend one to three months in the state.

In 2017, thanks partly to a favorable exchange rate, Canadians bought $7 billion worth of real estate in Florida. The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service said 12 percent of those purchases were in the Tampa Bay area, second only to Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

CORPORATE TIES

More than 580 Canadian companies have affiliates in Florida, 81 of them in Hillsborough County. Another 26 are in Pinellas, six are in Pasco and one is in Hernando.

In 2015, Nova Scotia-based Emera struck a deal to buy TECO Energy, the parent company of Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas. Two other business sectors with a strong bay area Canadian presence are banking (BMO Harris Bank and TD Bank are in Tampa) and engineering (including Stantec, Parsons Brinkerhoff, and CAE USA, which has a Tampa-area flight simulation and training center).

Other Canadian companies with Tampa Bay area operations include Bausch & Lomb, Cardel Homes, Cott Corp., PCL Construction, Waste Connections, and RBC Capital Markets.

Several big bay area companies have operations in Canada. Tech Data, headquartered in Clearwater, has 550 Canadian employees, many of them in offices or integration centers — facilities that package, ship, maintain and work with both hardware and software — in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa.

Jabil, a global computer and electronics manufacturer based in St. Petersburg, employs 38 at an Ottawa plant that serves customers in data and optical communications, photonics, radio frequency and microwave applications, and system or networking applications and telecommunications.

TRADE

Trade numbers can vary from one government agency to another, but one thing is clear: Trade is big between Canada and both Florida and the Tampa Bay area. For the state as a whole, only Brazil is a bigger trading partner. (That said, according to the U.S. International Trade Administration, 21 other states exported more to Canada last year than the $3.8 billion that Florida shipped.)

For the bay area, only Mexico is a larger export market than Canada. About 8 percent of the Tampa Bay area's total exports went to Canada in 2016. That's $449 million to Canada out of $5.7 billion in total exports worldwide.

Canada is Port Tampa Bay's fourth biggest trading partner, mainly in bulk products, with fertilizer going out and granite coming in.

Tampa International Airport does have nonstop flights to Montreal via Air Canada. The airline's passenger counts are growing, but they amount to less than 2 percent of the airport's total traffic. In April, Air Canada carried 39,000 passengers total, and Montreal was just one of four Canadian destinations.

MORE: Go here for more business news

Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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