Florida trade program will take entrepreneurs to 15 Latin American cities
By Candi Calkins
A series of two-day trade missions to 15 cities in Latin America sponsored by Americas Linkage, a program created by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, will promote Florida as an exporter of professional services.
Mini-trade missions planned April 8-26 will give business owners and professionals an opportunity to visit an overseas destination. During the two-day trip, delegates spend the first day meeting with representatives of that city's chamber of commerce and trade organizations to give presentations and discuss Florida's significance as a business center of the Americas.
On the second day, executives meet with companies in that city to promote their businesses, said Marisa Feito, senior vice president for international economic development of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
"It was designed to be a short and easy and inexpensive way to go to Latin America," Ms. Feito said. "In two days we are able to hit our two targets, which are, one, on the broader level to promote Florida as an international infrastructure and, on the second day, it's more on a personal level, for each executive to do their own personal business."
"Americas Linkage is one of the business-to-business programs that we have to promote Florida as a business center and to promote the export of knowledge-based services out of the state of Florida," Ms. Feito said.
Registration deadline is Friday, March 15.
Working with American Airlines, the Americas Linkage program offers two-day trips to Brazil and Southern Cone countries for $250. Trips to Mexico City and other Latin American cities cost $150.
"It's a great opportunity for service-industry businesses to go down there for remarkably little dollars," said Carlos Concepcion, chairman of Americas Linkage and an attorney who uses the trips to promote his law firm, Concepcion Rojas & Santos, and connect with potential clients.
He said the mini-trade missions last year offered an opportunity to contact companies they otherwise would not have known and to visit existing clients at a reduced cost. "It's very easy for us to justify participating in the trip."
Cities visited during April are Montevideo, Port of Spain, Santiago, Sao Paulo, Quito, Belo Horizonte, Buenos Aires, Guatemala, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Caracas, Santo Domingo, San Jose, Panama and Lima.
Although some of the two-day trade missions will be carried out simultaneously, participants may choose to visit more than one city.
Mr. Concepcion said he and a partner would visit four or five cities to promote their law firm.
About 15 people have so far signed up for the missions. Americas Linkage organizers expect most participants to wait until the last minute. Applicants are screened for eligibility to ensure they have a business reason for participating.
Bilingual staffers with the program will accompany each trade mission to make presentations and assist with translation. Ms. Feito expects each two-day trip to have an average of five participants. A directory of participating companies will be distributed in each city.
Americas Linkage also has a fall program during which Latin American executives are brought to Miami for three days of seminars and business meetings. Mr. Concepcion said 58 executives came to Miami last October despite chamber executives' concern that the trip came only one month after the events of Sept. 11.
Florida Services Export Program, a joint effort of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, the state and Enterprise Florida, administers the Americas Linkage program created three years ago to encourage the export of knowledge-based services, Ms. Feito said.
Florida Services Export Program focuses on business-to-business programs, including Americas Linkage, while the Institute for International Professional Services at Florida International University focuses on research and educational programs and studies.
"They are the think tank. We are the business-to-business facilitators," Ms. Feito said.
Until recently most export programs focused on manufacturing and exported goods. However, chamber officials saw the need to encourage engineers, health care providers, real estate companies, securities brokers and similar industries selling their services in Latin America, Ms. Feito said.
"It really cuts across all service industries and groups them together under the umbrella of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and promotes this package down in Latin America," Mr. Concepcion said.
He said organizers are making a greater effort to recruit participants throughout the state. "The idea is to sell the services of Florida, not just of South Florida."
A website, www.AmericasLinkage.com, is expected to be available this week with information on the mini-trade missions schedule and registration requirements.
Details: (305) 350-1970.