Sao Paulo opens business incubator in Miami Free Zone
By Claudio Mendonça
Producer of one-third of Brazil's goods and services, the state of Sao Paulo wants to increase exporting through a new business center at the Miami Free Zone.
One of the goals of the new 1,300-square-foot incubator in Doral is to provide legal and financial support for small and medium-size businesses in that state in trade with the US and other Latin American markets.
The Brazilian government boasts that Sao Paulo alone has a stronger economy than Argentina, but officials think exports still lag. In 2003, Sao Paulo's gross internal product was $172 billion, compared to its southern neighbor's $146 billion.
"When it comes to exports, Brazil has been a late-comer, and as a result, we only have 1% of the American market," said Brazilian ambassador Roberto Abdenur. "The business center will consolidate as an export platform for Sao Paulo."
The ambassador said that while China sells about $140 billion worth of goods to the US, Brazil exports $32 billion worth.
Representatives of the Sao Paolo business center, which opened last week, said they will use their first year of activity in South Florida to assess the market.
"This relationship will strengthen the relationship between Sao Paulo and Florida," said Carlos Barbieri, spearheading the business center. "We are only starting to set realistic targets in our second year of activity."
With Brazil being Florida's largest partner in 2004 with $10.4 billion in trade, Mr. Barbieri, coordinator of the Brazilian Business Bureau, said it is a natural progression to have representation from the nation's most important manufacturing state in Miami-Dade County.
According to the US Department of Commerce, Brazil in 2004 sold $6 billion worth of goods to Florida, with Sao Paulo accounting for 35%.
Home to 200 of Latin America's Fortune 500 companies, Sao Paulo's main exports are technology products, apparel, agriculture and airplane, automobile and nuclear-reactor parts.
According to the Brazilian Business Bureau, two-thirds of the oranges consumed in Florida come from Sao Paulo.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Javier Souto, who attended the center's March 12 opening, said the office is a "step to promote business both ways."
In 1990, when he was a state senator, Mr. Souto helped open a Florida trade and tourism office in Sao Paulo.
"It's a two-way street," he said. "Sao Paulo is a powerhouse, and it is Brazil's most important region when it comes to business."
Mr. Barbieri said he is excited about the business center's location in the Miami Free Zone, especially with the US Customs office having been moved there from the Port of Miami. With the Customs office there, he said, trade operations will be more efficient.
Gary Goldfarb, executive director of the Miami Free Zone, said the duty-free facility has implemented a program to electronically clear inbound transactions in two minutes rather than an hour.
"Quick Process can potentially take an order by 10 a.m. and have it delivered by 11," said Mr. Goldfarb. "Sao Paulo has been manufacturing above their consumption, and their state officials are recognizing that it is do or die - in other words, it is export or give up."
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