When most people think of South Florida’s top industries, they think of tourism, hospitality and real estate. Manufacturing? Not so much.

But due to the region’s seaports, international airports and prime location, the manufacturing industry has matured into a robust sector garnering national accolades for its growth. For example, Forbes magazine named Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties in its 2018 list of counties where manufacturing thrives.

“Manufacturing in South Florida isn’t thought of as sexy, and that’s a struggle for our industry,” said Matthew Rocco, president of the South Florida Manufacturers Association. “But in reality, there are some really good, high-paying jobs down here, and it touches everything we do in our economy. It’s really the backbone of our economy.”

The sector benefits from South Florida’s railways, highways, three major seaports and three international airports – including Miami International Airport, which is No. 1 in the nation for international freight. That, and its status as an international hub, has helped make the region’s manufacturers strong trade partners with Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Everything that a manufacturer needs is all here,” Business Development Board of Palm Beach County President and CEO Kelly Smallridge said. “If you look at the talent and education networks, the university systems, the transportation and mobility, the bilingual workforce … the resources we have in South Floridaare unmatched.”