Consortium from Cantabria in Spain plans to tap US market from new Miami base
By Paola Iuspa
Sharing logistic and marketing expenses in Miami could enable a group of companies to enter the American market in a cooperative effort with the government of Cantabria, Spain, and with a boost from the European Union.
Cantabrian officials said four companies involved in food processing and aquaculture are behind the effort, which operates under the banner CADEX, or consorcio cantabro de exportacion.
The group gets 40% of its budget from SoderCan, a Cantabrian department created to promote regional economic development, said Antonio Suarez Saudinos, director general of SoderCan.
"This project is aimed at helping small and medium companies expand their markets," Mr. Saudinos said. "CADEX will do market analyses, plan marketing strategies, provide transportation to deliver their products once they get here, give them information on US Food & Drug Administration requirements to import food to the states and other things."
The project began almost a year ago with help from the European Union Commission, which sought proposals from regions in Europe to promote the export of food and food-processing products.
"We proposed to create this platform based in Miami, and they approved it," said Francisco Royano Gutierrez, director of investments and projects for SoderCan.
"The European Union paid for our initial trips to Miami to make our first contacts," he said. "Now it is all up to us to make it work."
Comercial Tinamenor, Blanco Abascal, Panusa and Agua de Solares are the Cantabria-based companies that will have a permanent presence in Miami beginning this week. Felipe Albacete, CADEX general manager in the US, will be in charge of the office, now temporarily in downtown Miami, Mr. Albacete said.
The group hopes to find a warehouse office with showroom space close to Miami International Airport within two months, Mr. Saudinos said. He said they need a place to exhibit products from 40 other companies, which are not partners now but could be if sales go well.
"They would have two options," he said. "They may join the platform or pay a fee to use the logistic services offered by CADEX. Or they can open their own company and use their own services. But that would be very costly."
As new partners join the group, the government's subsidy will decrease, Mr. Saudinos said.
"The idea is that the platform grows without limits," he said.
Members of Miami's International Trade Board said convincing the group to open the office in Miami instead of Atlanta, as originally planned, was not difficult.
"This is a city of service," said Julian Linares, board member and chair of the board's corporate development committee. "From here, you can send your products to the rest of the US or to Latin America directly."
Mr. Linares said many executives in Spain are starting to think of Miami as the city where they would like a presence.
"It all changed after Telefonica of Spain opened its Latin America headquarters in Miami," he said. "They started realizing that Miami was more than nice beaches and Julio Iglesias. They saw that you could also work here."
The King of Spain's visit last month also brought Miami more "credibility" in Spain and was partially responsible for an increase in the number of Spanish companies requesting information about an office here, Mr. Linares said.
SoderCan had also named Mr. Linares investment representative for the Province of Cantabria in Miami a year ago, Mr. Saudinos said.
Cantabria, with 526,000 habitants, is about 100 miles from the French border. About 25% of the economy is based on manufacturing, said Jose Ramon Alvarez Redondo, president of SoderCan. He said about 26% of that industry produces automobile parts, 22% processes food, 11% uses iron and steel and 10% makes chemicals.
Almost 64% of the economy rests on services related to tourism, Mr. Saudinos said. With Santander as its capital, Cantabria's average growth rate is 4% while Spain's overall rate is 3.7%, he said.
The US has exported to Cantabria $1.33 million in 2000 and imported about $1.31 million. Cantabria's most important trading partners are Germany, France and Italy, Mr. Saudinos said. Although the US receives 10% of the province's exports, trade with the US grew 450% from 1999 to 2000, he said.
SoderCan officials said now is the right time to increase exports to the US because the dollar is stronger than the euro, making European goods cheaper to buy in dollars.
The Miami office will promote bilateral trade, Mr. Saudinos said.
"Of course, these are long-range projects," he said. "It takes time to start seeing any results."