Chinese businesses could open in Miami Free Zone
By Suzy Valentine
Up to five Chinese companies could take space at the Miami Free Zone following an alliance forged this week with China's third-largest city.
A representative of the duty-free zone in Doral visited Chicago on Monday to sign a deal with the Tianjin Economic Technological Development Area.
"In two weeks, we'll host four or five companies interested in opening up in the free zone," said Miami Free Zone CEO Ralph Gazitua. "The plan is to take 10,000 square feet of warehouse space and create up to six jobs."
One of the interested parties is a manufacturer of generators targeted at the hurricane-prone Florida market. The zone has one existing Chinese tenant, China Motorcycles.
Although the Miami Free Zone hosted a Chinese delegation of 75 on Sept. 14, the agreement is the fruit of several months' labor, said Gary Goldfarb, the zone's executive vice president. A visit by county representatives to Tianjin in March preceded a return trip a month later.
The Tianjin Economic Technological Development Area has three subzones - a microelectronic park and scientific and chemical industrial parks.
"There are plans for a fourth subzone," said Mr. Gazitua, "which would be dedicated to entertainment."
He said the trade area, the size of Coral Gables, employs 500,000 people.
Tianjin is to become home to a hospitality school operated by county-based Florida International University that is to open its doors next year. The relationship between the city and FIU, said Mr. Gazitua, expedited the drive toward cooperation.
FIU Dean of Hospitality Management Joseph West "brought the opportunity for we entrepreneurs to move in quickly," he said. "We want to establishment ourselves in Tianjin. Once we have a strong working relationship, we may look at other Chinese cities."
The second Florida-China summit, Sept. 14 at the free zone, has produced leads. Delegates from the China Council for Promotion of International Trade and high-ranking executives made contact with some Miami staples.
"We assembled a group of interested domestic parties," said Mr. Goldfarb, "that included Perry Ellis and Ryder, whose representatives apparently conducted transactions with their counterparts."
Meanwhile, a trade mission to Asia next month should produce further opportunities to forge ties with the region.
Delegates on a tour of Japan, Korea and China starting Oct. 17 will include Secretary of State Glenda Hood, County Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz and Doral Vice Mayor Pete Cabrera.
"We'll have representation at every level," said Mr. Gazitua, who's starting his tour early in Hong Kong. "My trip starts Oct. 11. I've arranged meetings with the city's trade development council and chamber of commerce as well as the US Department of Commerce."
By the end of the year, Mr. Gazitua said, he anticipates that 95% of the 850,000 square feet at the Miami Free Zone complex will have been leased.
"We're in the process of securing a further 550,000 square feet," he said, "and should be ready to make an announcement in January."