Malina center deserves new life, director says
By Dan Dolan
Despite four years of growing pains and controversy, the Jay Malina International Trade Consortium is bringing new business to Miami-Dade and deserves to win a new lease on life from the county commission, says Tony Ojeda, the organization's executive director.
And Mr. Ojeda is confident commissioners will see things the same way when they consider the organization's fate Dec. 5 under a law requiring the international trade agency to justify its existence or die.
"We have demonstrated there is a need for an international operation to spread Miami's message around the globe and to help bring in business," said Mr. Ojeda, who took over as agency boss about six months ago. "That's our job. And we're good at it."
As part of the formal review process, Mr. Ojeda drafted a report for the commission detailing his agency's accomplishments since it was created in November 2002.
Here are some highlights, according to Mr. Ojeda's 12-page report, which also details operations at the $1.4 million bureau:
nLeading eight business development missions to Caribbean, Asian and European nations.
nOrganizing 28 other trade missions that were run by other agencies under the Jay Malina International Trade Consortium banner.
nEstablishing four new Sister Cities programs joining Miami to communities in Colombia, Argentina, the Turks & Caicos and St. Kitts and Nevis.
nSpearheading relief efforts for Haiti and the Dominican Republic after Hurricane Jeanne.
nCreating a local business data base that led to 80 meetings between Miami-Dade companies and a trade delegation from Jamaica.
"We've accomplished a lot, but the next five years are an even bigger challenge," Mr. Ojeda said. "Competition is fierce. We have to make sure people know we're America's No. 1 cargo airport and No. 1 cruise port. That's how we'll build business here."
Mr. Ojeda said his agency can no longer issue statistics on the dollar-volume it generates. In the past, he said, those figures were inflated. That triggered a scandal, which led to his appointment to restyle the trade organization.
Since taking the helm, Mr. Ojeda said he has instituted tighter accounting procedures, trimmed costs and identified the best international trading partners. He said the agency will be focusing on Africa, Asia and the Middle East over the next year.
"I would also like us to help change visa requirements for foreign businessmen entering America," Mr. Ojeda said. "Since September 11 and passage of the Patriot Act, it's increasingly difficult for businessmen, especially from the Middle East, to enter America. That gets in the way of trade. We need to make it easier for Miami-Dade to do business with the rest of the world."