187 flying to Brazil with Gov. Rick Scott for trade boost
By Scott Blake
Can trade between Florida and Brazil be taken to another level? A team of 187 representatives from the Sunshine State's business and political worlds aims to find out this week.
Nearly half the group — 90 people — is representing South Florida on a state trade mission to Brazil. The South American nation known for its growing economy already is a top consumer of Florida exports.
Led by Gov. Rick Scott, the group hopes to sow the seeds of new business relationships on the five-day trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil's most populous city with an estimated 11.2 million people. The Florida group is to depart Saturday night on two flights from Miami International Airport.
Orlando-based Enterprise Florida, an independent organization contracted by the state to promote economic development, is organizing the trade mission.
"The mission will provide a great opportunity for Florida companies to enter or expand their market in the Brazilian market," said Manny Mencia, Enterprise Florida's senior vice president of international trade and business development.
Mr. Mencia, who is based in Coral Gables, will be among nine representatives from Enterprise Florida on the trip, according to the list of attendees. Since being established 15 years ago, the agency has organized about 25 "Team Florida" trade missions with the goal of boosting the state's economy.
Much of the cost of the trade missions is paid from Enterprise Florida's annual budget, which is generally composed of 80% state funds and 20% private funds, said Stuart Doyle, the agency's spokesman.
Enterprise Florida's travel money is used to pay for the costs of the governor and the agency's employees. The costs for state employees on the trip are paid by their own departments. In addition, state and local elected officials pay a fee to go on the trip, and businesspeople representing the private sector pay a discounted travel rate, Mr. Doyle said.
In Sao Paulo, the Florida group will stay at two hotels, the Grand Hyatt and the Estanplaza Berrini.
The highlight of the trip is a trade expo in which Florida representatives can meet with Brazilian businesspeople, promote their businesses at exhibit booths and attend networking events.
Florida exports to Brazil totaled more than $13.7 billion last year, according to Enterprise Florida.
The agency said the best prospective industries for increasing exports to Brazil include aircraft and related parts, banking, digital media and entertainment, industrial machinery, legal services, medical and surgical equipment, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications equipment, tourism, and transportation and wholesale trade.
Among the contingent from Greater Miami on the trip will be Marili Cancio Johnson, a Miami lawyer who specializes in international and real estate law.
Ms. Johnson, who grew up in Brazil, said a number of her clients are affluent Brazilians interested in buying South Florida real estate. She said she is paying her own way for the trip and hopes to make additional business connections in Sao Paulo.
"A lot of my clients are buying property in the Brickell area. A lot of them are cash buyers from South America," she said. The trade mission "is a good opportunity to get even more business."
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