Colombia, Mexico pushing for trade with South Florida
By Claudio Mendonça
Colombian and Mexican trade representatives are aggressively seeking business relationships in South Florida.
With Miami-Dade County accounting for 33% of the trade between South America and the US and 48% of commerce between Central America and the Caribbean, it seems natural that companies in the Southern Hemisphere are seeking business opportunities here, according to the International Trade Consortium of Miami-Dade County.
Representatives from Colombia and Mexico were in town in recent weeks to promote events to stimulate business activity in the US. The Colombian government sponsored the Macro Rueda de Negocios and the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce hosted its fifth annual Expomex.
The Macro Rueda de Negocios generated $110 million in deals between Colombian and US companies. According to the Colombian government, the meeting attracted 1,000 businesses and yielded $58.5 million in agricultural transactions alone and $34.2 million in textile-industry deals. In two days, there were 5,200 meetings.
"Miami is becoming closer to Colombian companies because so many people speak Spanish and there are less language barriers," said Carlos Ortiz, the county's foreign trade coordinator. "It has become the point of entrance to other US markets."
Dairy-products giant Alpina Productos Alimenticios of BogotĚ is using Miami to expand and reach other US states such as New York and California.
Santiago Velez of the Colombian-American Chamber of Commerce board of directors, credited the US's low interest rate and a favorable currency-exchange rate for ventures in South Florida. One US dollar now sells for 2,600 Colombian pesos, compared to 2,900 two years ago.
Paul Materon, a Colombian real estate businessman, said it is a perfect time to invest in South Florida. "Miami is going through a great period for investments," said Mr. Materon. "It's a hot market, and the time to invest is now."
He said several textile companies from Medellin have researched Miami aggressively to establish warehouses around Doral, Medley and Miami Lakes. Additionally, companies in the coffee, flowers, furniture and wood sectors are interested in establishing bases here.
"Miami is the best city in Colombia," Mr. Velez said. "The economy in Colombia is picking up, and companies are using Miami as an avenue to expand its business in the US."
The US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce represents the third-largest Latin community in Florida after Cubans and Puerto Ricans. Mexican investments have been thriving in South Florida.
With 400,000 Mexicans living in Florida, Mexican corporations are aiming to fulfill the desires of Latin consumers.
"It's been a phenomenon in the past two years," said Elba Hentschel executive director of the chamber. "We have several companies opening in South Florida, the door to Latin America."
Mexican entertainment company Grupo CIE has made a $50 million investment in Broward County for a children's amusement center. Air carrier Aviaexa began operating Miami-to-Monterrey service 10 months ago and is considering adding flights at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Mexicana de Aviacion, meanwhile, has increased its flights between Miami and Merida, Cancun and Mexico City.
Ms. Hentshel said Mexican exporting companies have reaped great benefits from the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been in existence for 10 years. Companies capitalizing on NAFTA are those involved in e-commerce and apparel, food and beverage sales. "With the ban on tax barriers, trading has become a lot easier and fluent," said Ms. Hentshel
In addition, Chilean investments include trade in the wine industry. In Miami for six months, Aresti Chile Wine of Santiago is aiming to distribute throughout the US.
Businesses from Venezuela also continue to arrive. Due to political uncertainty in that country, many small-business owners are fleeing their South American country for South Florida.
In the past five years, 95,000 Venezuelans have flocked to Florida, according to the Venezuelan-American Chamber of Commerce.
"We have a big inflow of companies leaving because of political reasons," said Victoria Azpurua, chairwoman of the Venezuelan-American chamber. "In the past two years, our chamber has doubled its membership from 100 to 200 members."