Incubator, increasing trade attract Brazilian companies
By Claudio Mendonça
A continuing increase in trade with Brazil is attracting more companies from that country to set up shop in Miami.
As Florida's largest trading partner, Brazil exported $4.5 billion worth of goods to the state last year.
South America's largest country is the No. 1 exporter to Miami-Dade County with sales totaling $3.8 billion last year, an increase of $783 million from 2003. In the first quarter of this year, Brazilian companies sold $904 million in goods here, up 37% from first-quarter 2004.
The Brazilian government has created a distribution center, Agencia de Promoç“o e Exportaçžes Brasileiras, or APEX, at the Miami Free Zone in Doral. The Free Zone is an 825,000-square-foot duty-free facility at 2305 NW 107th Ave. with warehouse, showroom and office space.
The first foreign distribution center in the zone, APEX occupies a 10,000-square-foot warehouse and showroom. In addition to storage, the public-private entity provides exporters from Brazil with logistics solutions and some commercial support.
Since opening at the zone May 16, APEX has attracted 92 companies, and 130 others are on a waiting list. Agency officials say there are at least 50 American importers interested in bringing furniture, marble, granite, coffee and pharmaceutical products.
"Results have been better than expected," said Silvia Breda Pierson, APEX operations manager. "Before opening, we were targeting to attract 40 Brazilian exporters in a seven-month time span. That number, however, has been obtained in just three months."
Ms. Pierson said companies choose the free zone because tariffs on products heading to other US markets are paid once goods leave the facility. In normal circumstances, import taxes are paid when merchandise leaves the Port of Miami or Miami International Airport.
At the free zone, tenants do not pay tax on imports when shipping products abroad. Duties are charged on goods sent to other US markets.
The Coffee Growers Association of Sao Paulo operates from Doral and consists of eight companies. The Brazilian Association of Marble and Granite, Kanitz Cosmetics, KOS Acrylics and Agaplastic, a supplier of medical and pharmaceutical products, also operate through APEX.
"The advantage of being affiliated with APEX is that it reduces overhead costs," said Gulherme Aguiar, operational director for Kanitz Cosmeticos who wants to sell to drugstores throughout the US.
He said that by operating through APEX, the company does not have to lease a warehouse and gets assistance with logistics solutions and inventory control. Kanitz Cosmeticos pays APEX $800 monthly to store products.
Ms. Pierson estimated that 120 Brazilian companies will be involved in APEX by year's end. "The more companies the better. However, we want to make sure companies signing up with APEX are prepared and knowledgeable of the American market.
At first, we want to consolidate so we can better serve companies already established at APEX," she said.
She said she advises Brazilian companies to become familiar with American certification and compliance rules, product markets, buyers and main distribution channels.
The Sao Paulo Business Center, a meeting venue where vendors can get together with global buyers, also has set up shop in Doral. The office was created to attract companies from Sao Paulo, Brazil's wealthiest state.
"We've been having a great amount of American companies interested in Brazilian products," said Carlo Barbieri of the business center. He said interest runs from the purchase of bulletproof vests to beverages such as cachaça, a liquor similar to tequila.
Mr. Barbieri said the business center and APEX can complement each other.
Companies become interested in using the free zone, he said, because the venue has become a reference point for sales infrastructure.
Brazilian paint manufacturer Tintas Suvinil, a transportation business and a refrigeration company are among the latest to show interest in opening at the business center, Mr. Barbieri said.
"We have been receiving visitors from 15 to 20 companies a week from the state of Sao Paulo," said Mr. Barbieri. "They are interested in using the infrastructure as a hub in the US, Caribbean and to the northern part of South America in countries such as Venezuela and Colombia."
Mr. Barbieri said he is pleased with the management of the free zone.
"The new administration values square footage in terms of business opportunities," he said. "They want successful tenants. The current dynamics is fantastic, and the amount of companies coming into the free zone is very stimulating."
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