US commerce to promote services program developed by chamber
By Jonathon Gutierrez
The US Department of Commerce is promoting the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's four-year-old export services program as a model to organizations nationwide.
Run by the chamber's international service committee, the program works to market the export of Florida's information, technology and professional services to international companies.
Recently, the committee, along with Enterprise Florida, a private and public group that promotes trade for the state, and Florida International University's Institute for International Professional Services have been working to expand the program to include companies from across Florida. It's financed through Enterprise Florida, which received $400,000 in June from the state.
This statewide promotion is the only one of its kind in the US, according to Henley Jones, international trade specialist for the Department of Commerce.
"There really aren't that many successful programs that rival what's going on there with the statewide initiative," Mr. Jones said. "There's no comparison nationally, I'm sure of that."
He said the program is a good fit with the commerce department's growing interest in exporting US service providers as opposed to the traditional focus of exporting manufactured goods.
"It's a program that can be a model for other states' groups to look at as a way to increase service exports," Mr. Jones said. "Traditionally we've been involved with exporting manufactured products. Working with service companies requires us to use a different way of thinking."
One major feature of the program is a database of Florida service companies accessible at a website, floridaservicenet.com. The database is designed to allow international companies to easily contact Florida businesses.
"One thing we have to attribute our success is the fact that we have historically been a manufacturing economy," said Jose Rojas, co-chairman of the chamber's international service committee. "When you try to find information on the service sector, you find that there is not a wealth of data available to researchers or businesses trying to link up. One of the big factors in our success was that we teamed up with FIU. They have been very helpful in so far as the research goes."
The committee also sponsors trade missions, allowing Florida businesses to establish connections in foreign markets. For example, it runs the Americas Linkage Program, which brings delegations of professionals to 14 Latin American cities each year.
In June, John McCartney, director of the US Commercial Service Export Assistance Centers in Florida, organized a training seminar for members of the centers to help service companies with export their work. Committee members were asked to speak at the meeting, but due to the chamber's heavy workload they made a 40-minute tape about the program instead.
The tape featured presentations by Mr. Rojas; Mercedes Ponce, assistant director of the institute for professional services at FIU; Tony Santos, a member of the chamber's board of governors, and Marisa Feito, chamber senior vice president, who oversees the chamber's international economic development, global affairs and international services work. The tape will be made available as a training tool to organizations throughout the country.
Meanwhile the chamber is continuing to focus on its website and trade missions. Ms. Feito said the group is hoping to expand the site to include information in Spanish and Portuguese and create individual files for members so they can call up information about companies they've found in previous searches.
The group is working through proposals and project quotes but hopes to have a plan for the site by the end of September, Ms. Feito said.
She said the chamber is also looking at other areas for inspiration, specifically Hong Kong, where the committee will be traveling this month. While there, she said they plan to meet with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, not just to make business connections, but to see what lessons they can learn.
"They have an incredible website and business center," Ms. Feito said. "One of our priorities is not just to do participate, but to learn from participating what they are doing around the world. We'll be bringing that information back to Florida to examine and enhance our program."