We've been right all along - we are a global business hub
By Michael Lewis
All that investment interest from abroad isn't limited to Greater Miami's booming condo market - not by a long shot.
While many of us are fixated on the highly touted investors in condos in this booming marketplace, foreign interests of a more enduring nature remain focused on Miami, as they have been for years - but with more intensity and with solid long-term business plans.
In the past three weeks alone, this newspaper has reported on activities as diverse as these:
Russian airline Domodedovo plans scheduled flights three times a week linking Miami and Moscow. Those flights wouldn't be primarily for beachgoers or Muscovites planning to visit relatives. The impetus for the flights has to be the strong investment interests of Russians in South Florida.
Most of the 39 businesses from abroad looking to open or expand in Miami-Dade County that have been helped in the past year by our economic development arm, the Beacon Council, have been European firms looking at Miami as the springboard to the vast markets of Latin America. While investment here is attractive, we are recognized as the business capital of Latin America.
Our gateway role is luring not just individual firms but consortiums of companies that cluster to make their base in Miami with a business eye southward. As we reported last week, Italian investors are looking for their own hub to do business in Latin America, and they're looking here for a locus that would be a base for 15 midsize Italian apparel and home-furnishing companies. Such deals are win-win for the investors and this community.
Italians aren't the only ones who see clustering as the way to go. The Korea Trade Center here was to host a trade show this week - if the weather cooperated - bringing in 10 companies from the province of Chungbuk from a variety of manufacturing arenas, all looking for ties to the Latin American market.
Spanish restaurateur AREAS expects to open a US headquarters in Miami this year with 150 to 200 employees to develop food operations in airports and highway rest areas - and it, too, sees opportunities in Latin America.
Interest in Miami from China remains strong, with a number of possible operations here, virtually all with a Latin America focus. But four Chinese film companies planned to be here this week to meet with South Florida entertainment companies and establish business links that might focus on the US market as well.
As another Asian entry to the market, Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts plans to open its first venture outside Asia Pacific and the Middle East on Watson Island, a 147-room hotel. It's one of several Asian-oriented hotels to enter our community - perhaps a precursor of increases in business visitors from Asia.
None of this interest from abroad will surprise savvy business folks in Miami. We know our economy is based on more than condos and tourism - and on more than the United States.
We've been telling each other for years that we're the gateway to Latin America and a global player.
Guess what? More so every day, it's absolutely true.