Trade trips to Spain, Paris to tout Florida servicesBy Sherri C. Ranta
Representatives of the Beacon Council, Enterprise Florida, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the French Trade Commission in Miami will travel to Europe this month to promote Miami as the world's gateway for doing business in the Americas and the Caribbean.
A one-week trade trip to Spain Oct. 21-28 is organized in part by the Greater Miami Chamber and several area businesses. A one-day seminar Oct. 30 in Paris is organized by the French Trade Commission.
Although the trips aren't connected, development officials and business leaders say they look to accomplish many of the same objectives: promoting important technological and business advantages of Miami as a base for business in the Americas.
About 35 people representing 20 Miami-based companies will travel to Barcelona and Madrid for one-to-one interviews with potential investors and to conduct half-day seminars in each city, said Marisa Feito, senior vice president, international group, of the Greater Miami Chamber.
Organized under the chamber's export of services program, the trip is designed to promote Miami's professional service industries, including legal, architectural and financial services. Ms. Feito says business leaders estimate $200 million in business ventures have been generated by chamber-sponsored trips to Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Guatemala in the past three years.
"Spain is a hot business opportunity. We don't know what Spain will produce, but we think it will be very good for us," she said.
While business leaders meet with executives in Spain, chamber officials will be meeting with their counterparts promoting the chamber's new website, floridaservicenet.com. The site is sponsored in part by Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development agency.
"This promotes the entire state of Florida and helps businesses around the world get in contact with Florida service providers," Ms. Feito said. "We'll make sure they are aware of the tool and promote it to their memberships. It's totally free."
Mission leaders include Rep. Carlos Lacasa, Jose A. Santos Jr. of Greenberg Traurig, economist Tony Villamil and Rosa Sugražes of Iberia Tiles. In addition to the chamber, the trip is sponsored in part by Enterprise Florida, Iberia Airline, Greenberg Traurig and Holland & Knight.
The trip to France is co-sponsored by the Consulate General of France and its French Trade Commission, housed on Biscayne Boulevard, and the law firm of Weissberg Gaetjens Ziegenfeuter, which has offices in Miami.
Consul General Philippe Chatignoux says many times French businesses don't know the many advantages of doing business in Miami-Dade County and using the community as a base for operations in the Americas and the Caribbean.
"We feel that Miami is such a place for excellent opportunities, in the north and in the south that we would not like French companies to miss this opportunity," he said.
To date, 37 companies with ties to France do business in the three-county area, Mr. Chatignoux said.
Beacon Council President Frank Nero will be keynote speaker at the Paris seminar. Mr. Nero, along with Mario Sacasa, vice president for the council's international business development program, will travel to France after participating in the week-long mission in Spain.
"We want to identify new prospects, get to know them, market the county, leave information behind, establish contacts and then do the follow-up," Mr. Sacasa said.
Mr. Sacasa and Enterprise Florida's Gary Schumann, director of international business development, will be panelists at the Paris seminar. Mr. Schumann said he will be promoting Florida's role in high technology, the state's No. 1 export.
"Florida is leading the US in simulation technology and is No. 2 in aerospace defense firms," Mr. Schumann said. "We are a leader in medical technologies and have the second highest concentration of medical labs in the country. We have the sixth largest concentration of semi-conductor manufacturers in the US. We have over 250 micro-electronics firms.
"We welcome any type of investment from France. We're hoping to attract more high-tech investment from France, as well as Latin America headquarters," Mr. Schumann said.
Florida and Miami are also becoming the Internet gateway to the Americas. The state has more than 8,600 IT companies, he said. Many of those promote business in Latin America. With the planned addition of a Network Access Point in Miami, the city is expected to attract additional investment serving the Internet markets in Latin America, Mr. Schumann said.
"We're kind of new in the French markets. This will be our first event, apart from the Paris Air Show," the largest aviation industry trade show in the world, he said.
Miami attorney Glenn Cooper of Becker & Poliakoff will also be a panelist in Paris, along with Kenneth Weissberg of Weissberg Gaetjens Ziegenfeuter.
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