Scott to Head 200-Strong Business Delegation Flying to Brazil to Grow Trade
Around the State
Gov. Rick Scott and nearly 200 other Floridians will be packing next week for a mission to Brazil aimed at boosting the state’s $13.7 billion a year economic infusion from its biggest South American partner.
Aviation, port, real estate, economic development and tourism interests from throughout Florida are participating, with the Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami, Fort Myers and Tallahassee regions dominating the list of travelers for the visit to Sao Paulo.
Two others from the governor’s office -- Dean Petrone, special assistant to the governor, and Lane Wright, traveling press secretary -- are also on the list of travelers for the Oct. 23-27 mission organized by Orlando-based Enterprise Florida.
Companies and organizations sending representatives south include Disney Destinations, Florida Realtors, Space Florida, Florida Power & Light, the University of Miami School of Business Administration, Florida Crystals Corp., Embraer Aircraft Holding, and the Florida Seaports Council.
Each agency and organization was required to pay $1,200 to have a single person included in the trip. Each additional passenger -- the group is flying American Airlines -- cost $600.
The trip was announced in May, though some details have not been made public. In the list released by Enterprise Florida, there is no mention of any security detail expected to accompany the governor. The governor’s office did not respond to questions about how Scott is paying for his and his wife’s tickets.
Last Tuesday, Scott, speaking to a Tallahassee business group, simply said the trip was to “create relationships, get more business here.”
Scott has been pushing for Florida to build up its ports and commercial rail system in an effort to attract more Central and South American trade.
Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership focused on statewide economic development, used the Miami-based Express Travel, an independent travel agency, to coordinate all airline and hotel reservations.
“For these missions, we use U.S. carriers unless it would be more cost-effective/less expensive to do otherwise,” noted Stuart Doyle, Enterprise Florida spokesman.
Echoing the governor, Doyle said a short-term goal is to help small and mid-sized businesses penetrate the Brazilian market, with the overall outcome of both “short- and long-term, jobs, jobs and more jobs!”
Florida’s 14 ports will be highlighted on Oct. 25 during a trade show in Sao Paulo, said Doug Wheeler, president of the Florida Ports Council.
Port Everglades, Port of Palm Beach, Port of Miami, Tampa Port Authority and Port Manatee each will have a representative on the trip, working collectively to showcase Florida as an alternative to the Port of Savannah in Georgia, Wheeler said.
“Brazil's already one of our biggest trade partners, so there is a lot of potential, so we felt like this was an important one where we go in sort of a unified front,” Wheeler said.
An area they will focus on is Florida’s ports, the first U.S. ports Brazilian ships reach, which provide two days' rail and truck service to more than 50 percent of the United States, Wheeler added.
Wheeler was part of an entourage accompanying Scott to the Panama Canal zone to push Florida’s ports. Scott added $77 million from the state to enhance the $120 million Miami-Dade effort to dredge the Port of Miami to handle bigger ships expected to travel through a widened Panama Canal.
“This is a natural fit for us, to have the governor down there, as vocal as he is, and as optimistic as he is. That helps,” Wheeler said.
Not everyone taking the trip will follow the planned travel itinerary, which includes a welcome reception hosted by U.S. Commercial Service in Sao Paulo and a business expo in Sao Paulo where Enterprise Florida will have booth space.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, along with representatives from several area businesses, will veer off for meetings with prospective Brazilian companies targeted for relocation or expansion to Central Florida.
“We’re hoping to drum up some business, help those companies open some doors for opportunities to trade and bring business back here,” said Zoraida Velasco, special assistant to the mayor.
“They’re going to meet with some that have been in the works and some that are on our target list, that we want to make an initial contact (with) and talk about the opportunities we’ve done research on. These companies are growing internationally and they don’t have representation in the Southeast U.S.A. and we think there could be a potential for expansion or trade.”
Both Velasco and Jacobs are scheduled to go on the trip.
Charlotte County Airport Authority Assistant Executive Director James Parish hopes to make connections that will attract companies to the available 800 acres of its foreign trade zone near Interstate 75.
“We’re not in a great location for a lot of things, but for distribution we are,” said Parish, who is one of three from the west coast airport authority traveling south. “We’re hoping to attract something or get attention to Southwest Florida.”
The airport authority has been meeting with a group of seven Brazilian-owned businesses in the Punta Gorda area to help prepare for the trip and will team with the Port of Manatee to host 24 Brazilian businessmen later this year.
Peruvian-native Gina Levin, president of First Choice Corporate Housing Group in Pembroke Pines, jumped at the chance to partake in the statewide mission, having been part of a business development delegation spearheaded by Gov. Jeb Bush to Quito, Ecuador, and Lima, Peru, in 2006.
“You make of it what you want to make of it, as when you do anything,” said Levin, who sees the upcoming trip as a chance to showcase her 7-year-old company that offers furnished housing in Southeast Florida to executives and professionals relocating or on assignment.
“We view this as an important opportunity to promote our services in Brazil,” she said.
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859 or (772) 215-9889.