Mission to Latin America to conclude next week
By Claudio Mendonça
Companies in Miami-Dade County are profiting from this year's America's Linkage tour, say officials from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, which is organizing the annual program.
Created in 2000 and sponsored by the US Department of Commerce, American Airlines and Enterprise Florida, the tour began April 18 in Santiago, Chile, and will conclude Monday in Managua, Nicaragua.
Since its launch, America's Linkage has generated $600 million in business deals, said Maria Masvidal-Visser, the chamber's vice president of international business development. From this year's stop in Uruguay, chamber officials project $2 million in deals with investors from that country in the next 12 months.
"The interest in the real estate sector in Miami was really strong," said Juan Pablo Gonzalez, the chamber's manager of international business development. "Uruguayan investors are planning to invest $500,000 in real estate in the region."
Another local company that hit the jackpot was the fledgling Atlantic Healthcare Group. The three-person company was founded in 1997 and opened its international division in 2003. During the mission, Atlantic Healthcare was able to sell $500,000 worth of wound-care products to hospitals in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.
"Any time trips like these are organized, they become advantageous for small businesses like ours that are not familiar with the region," said Peter Mendiola, the company's regional director. "We now have a half-million dollars in contracts in the books."
With the support of Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development agency, Mr. Mendiola is planning to continue looking at South American markets. He is planning to attend a medical trade show in Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 14-17 called Hospitalar, touted to be the largest medical field fair in South America.
Another participant on the venture to Latin America was Daniel Jacobson, an attorney for Miami law firm Akerman and Senterfitt. "It is a valuable way to reaffirm relationships in those countries and also an opportunity to visit clients we already work with," said Mr. Jacobson. "It is a cost-effective way to travel and do relationships."
He said he expects up to $200,000 in new business deals. He said short trips like the recent one to South America are "no-nonsense business trips where participants try to make the most out of it."
In Santiago, the chamber obtained "two or three good results," according to Ms. Masvidal-Visser. One lead may bring a Chilean law firm to Miami, she said.
America's Linkage generated substantial interest in Brazil. America's Linkage appeared in 25 articles in Brazilian newspapers and magazines.
The chamber expects America's Linkage to lead to delegations from throughout Latin America. A Brazilian group led by Gov. Aecio Neves of Minas Gerais is planning a June 27 visit to South Florida.
John Rooney, a partner at law firm Shutts & Bowen, participated in the recent mission and said he was contacted by two Brazilian companies interested in doing business in Florida. He would not name the companies but said one is in the medical field and another is a company that performs precision manufacturing for robotic repair.
In Brazil, Mr. Rooney said, he also met with a local association of real estate developers. "The meetings in Brazil were very successful," said Mr. Rooney. "Brazilians see Miami as a hospitable place to do business and where they can sell products to other countries in Latin America and Europe."