Chamber gets $120,000 grant for global initiatives
By Risa Polansky
Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development arm, is breathing new life into the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's Americas Linkage program after issuing a $120,000 grant to support the chamber's international initiatives — after former Gov. Jeb Bush last summer vetoed $300,000 in funds for the program.
The in-kind matching grant from Enterprise Florida is intended "to promote exports and products and services from our members abroad as well as connect them with Latin American companies that want to do business in Miami," said Liane Ventura, senior vice president of leadership programs and international business development.
Matching funds will come from participants in the chamber's international programs and from program sponsors both local and abroad, she said.
The Americas Linkage program, set to begin April 9, will offer participants the chance to visit as many as 11 Latin American cities through May 24.
The trip is an opportunity for local businesspeople to make contacts in Latin America, said Carolina Rendeiro, vice chairwoman of the Global Initiatives Committee at the chamber — and it worked for her.
Five contacts she made on last year's linkage mission signed leases with her company, Business Centers International, garnering the firm about $100,000, Ms. Rendeiro said.
"They came to me first because I had gone to their country," she said, calling the trip an opportunity for local businesses to "test a market or build relationships."
There is no attendance cap for any of the 11 trips — to cities in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico — and Ms. Rendeiro hopes to see about 20-25 local professionals on each, she said.
Through briefings, seminars and networking opportunities, the delegations will target the film, manufacturing, shipping, tourism and financial services industries, she said, although trip attendees do not have to be participants in the target industries to attend.
It is also open to non-chamber members.
After the Argentina leg of the trip, May 8-9, participants will have the option to extend their stay and participate in the first Biofuels Congress of the Americas, featuring former Vice President Al Gore as its keynote speaker.
The Enterprise Florida grant will also contribute to an upcoming inbound mission from South American companies, Ms. Ventura said, and, though no date is set, the chamber is also planning a mission to Europe sometime in the fall or winter.
The chamber will probably set a date for the trip at its June goals conference, she said.
It will most likely entail visits to Spain, Italy and Germany, as "our members are interested in expanding their knowledge of doing business in these companies," Ms. Ventura said. "Eventually, we'll look at exploring the Asian world, but not this year yet."