Gov. Bush's trade mission to Spain wins reverse trip to Miami in May
By Paola Iuspa
Contrasting with international jitters over US war talk, the Spanish government Tuesday made plans with Gov. Jeb Bush to visit Miami and Orlando in early May on a trade mission.
Spanish companies' interest in expanding to Florida to oversee US and Latin American operations hasn't decreased, despite the possible war with Iraq, said Frank Nero, president and CEO of the Beacon Council.
"There are some talks about the war," Mr. Nero said Tuesday from Madrid. "But this country is supportive of the US. Besides, investors are interested in going to places where their investments are going to be productive. And they view Florida as a gateway to Latin America."
Mr. Nero is one of 80 local and state delegates accompanying Gov. Bush in Spain on a six-day trip that runs through Saturday and is meant to attract investments. The mission was organized by Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development agency.
That group will help Spain stage the inbound trade mission, Mr. Nero said. The exact dates are not yet set.
"It will be a major Spanish delegation visiting Miami. It is a Spanish initiative," he said. Its announcement caught the delegation by surprise.
Also on Tuesday, the Florida delegation gave a seminar to guide future prospects on doing business in Florida.
"More than 100 companies were represented at the seminar," Mr. Nero said.
"Some companies, which I cannot name, seem very interested in opening a facility in Miami-Dade."
Gov. Bush also met with Spain's President Jose Maria Asnar and Community of Madrid President Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, who last year led a trade mission to Florida. They discussed ways to step up economic growth in to both regions.
One of Florida's fastest-growing trade partners, Spain has something every state in the US would die for: capital investment available and companies eyeing South Florida as their springboard to Latin America, said Mr. Nero.
More than 330 Spanish businesses make Florida their home. Some of those are Telefonica, Iberia airlines, nine Spanish banks, tile wholesalers and some food and beverage distributors, said Mar̀a Gracia Moreno, director of the investment department in the Trade Commission of Spain in Miami.
Trade relations between Spain and Florida flourished in the past year. In 2001, Florida exports to Spain totaled $227 million and through November 2002 those exports had increased 43% from the previous year, according to the governor's office.
Products Florida sells to Spain include aircraft parts, telephone equipment, medical devices and pharmaceuticals, said David Bishop, spokesman for the governor's office.
Florida's top exports are largely technology-driven and include airplane and helicopter components, telephone and medical equipment and pharmaceuticals. There are more corporate subsidiaries from Spain in Florida than from any other European country, according to Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development group and the organizers of a six-day trip to Spain currently under way.
Data from the trade commissioner's office in Miami showed that in 2001 Florida exported $227 million in goods and services to Spain and that Spain exported $350 million to Florida.