Enterprise Florida grants spur trade shows, business matchmaking
Enterprise Florida Inc., the state’s economic development arm, has continued to support Florida’s small and mid-sized businesses throughout the pandemic by introducing two new grant programs and maintaining existing initiatives such as offering certificates of free trade and website customization services.
Manny Mencia, the senior vice president of the organization’s International Trade and Business Development Division, told Miami Today that international trade plays a significant role in sustaining and supporting 2.4 million jobs in Florida. These jobs, he said, could pay up to 30% higher than the average wage in the state.
According to Mr. Mencia, whose office is in Coral Gables, as of 2019 approximately 58,000 companies across the state were involved in exporting, a significant percentage of which are small and mid-sized entities that do business in one to three countries..
In a typical year, Enterprise Florida participates in roughly 40 events, including trade shows and international business trips, to help such companies make international connections. However, given current events, these traditional practices are not an option at the moment, he said.
“Practically every trade show in the world between now and the fall has been cancelled or postponed by the organizers,” Mr. Mencia said. To fill this gap, virtual trade shows have emerged that allow businesses to showcase their products in digital “booths” and attend educational seminars.
One upcoming trade show that Enterprise Florida aims to participate in is the Virtual Trade Show of the Americas from June 24-26, which the event page on Enterprise’s website describes as a “multi-sector event that will bring together visitors and buyers from across Latin America looking for U.S. made goods and services.”
To help businesses attend such events, EFI released the Virtual Trade Show Grants Program this month. The new program will allow qualifying businesses to apply for a reimbursable grant of up to $2,500 to offset or cover the cost of attending such events.
Enterprise Florida’s reimbursable grants, Mr. Mencia clarified, are paid to companies that cover the charge of service up-front and provide Enterprise with the receipt.
“Every business is facing a challenging situation,” Mr. Mencia said. “We have to find ways of helping these companies continue to do business and continue to succeed in the international marketplace.”
Another initiative Enterprise Florida has implemented to further this objective is the Virtual Business Matchmaking program, which makes virtual introductions between businesses and pre-screened international agents, clients or distributors in target markets. This program also operates on a reimbursable basis covered by Enterprise Floridza grants, making it free to participating businesses.
“This grant will allow Florida businesses the opportunity to engage in new markets while international travel restrictions remain in place,” Jamal Sowel, Enterprise Florida CEO, said in a press release.
In addition to these programs, Mr. Mencia said Enterprise Florida has continued to offer existing services to clients including facilitating the adaption of websites to overseas markets and issuing Certificates of Free Sale. According to Mr. Mencia, many developing countries require exporters to have this certification in order to ensure the safety and quality of products sent overseas.
In fiscal 2019-2020, he said, Florida exporters reported $955 million in actual and expected sales through this program alone.
A second service that Enterprise Florida offers to small and mid-size businesses is the Website Localization Grants program, which Mr. Mencia said “helps Florida companies translate and adapt their websites to a foreign market or a market with a different language.”
According to Mr. Mencia, the program offsets the cost of translating and placing websites into foreign markets, taking into account appropriate nuances in local languages to ensure the most appropriate translation.
This localization service, which Mr. Mencia said starts at around $12,000, is provided by global company IBT. Through reimbursable grants, he continued, Enterprise Florida helps companies cover up to two-thirds of the total cost.