Spanish companies building relationships with Floridians
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
A group of top Spanish companies is building an organization to increase cooperation between Spanish- and American-based businesses such as those in the energy and financial sectors.
The year-old España-Florida Foundation 500yrs is made up of Spanish companies that operate in Florida, including top players in the financial arena such as Banco Santander, Banco Popular, Banco Sabadell and CajaSol. Other members include Iberia Tiles, Telefónica and Unión Radio.
The private non-profit organization, which hopes to foster new commercial and cultural ties between Spaniards and Floridians, seeks to grow its membership with the participation of American companies that share its vision.
Emilio Sánchez, president of Miami-based España-Florida Foundation 500yrs, said any company that wants to increase its presence in the Hispanic community can work with the foundation to enter those markets.
Mr. Sánchez was involved, along with the Consulate General of Spain, Trade Commission of Spain and others, in arranging the Spanish royals' visit to Miami.
The monarchy's visit was important to strengthen Florida's relationship with Spain and Spanish companies, he said, as the event received much attention and media coverage.
Friday, Spain's King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia attended an event with about 400 companies from Spain and Florida to discuss mutual collaboration.
Spain is a leader in energy production, Mr. Sánchez said, the second-largest producer of renewable and solar energy, and is also involved in wind energy production.
"It's a huge market for Spanish firms," he said. "In wind and solar energy, we are trying to increase cooperation with companies in the US."
With Gov. Charlie Crist's goal to have Florida derive 20% of its energy from renewable energy sources including solar and wind energy by 2020, new opportunities could be on the horizon for Spanish-based energy companies.
Mr. Sánchez said the tough economic times both America and Spain face represent an opportunity in disguise.
"This is a big crisis, but when you have a crisis you also have opportunity," he said.
Spanish companies have lots of opportunities in the US market, he said, and even amidst tough times Spain's top financial institutions — all with a presence in Miami — are still strong.
"We think the financial sector needs huge renovations," he said. "I think banks from Spain can offer new ways to do business in this financial sector."
With the Obama administration and Gov. Crist looking to increase investments in energy, Spanish business can help, he said. "Spanish companies have a good reputation in these projects and can provide lots of projects."
Mr. Sánchez said construction and traditional trade products such as made-in-Spain ceramics and wines and food also continue to seek expansion for viable markets such as South Florida.
The foundation wants to help reinforce the image of quality and innovation of those companies.
España-Florida also seeks to improve Spain's historical image.
He said increasing public knowledge of the role Spanish explorers played in the 16th and 17th centuries is a major focus, because they are often negatively portrayed in history books.
"We have to recognize what the Spanish did," he said. Activities are planned to show Spain's historical, cultural and economic legacy in Florida.
Mr. Sánchez said Miami was the ideal city to anchor the foundation because more than 300 Spanish companies are in South Florida.
"There is no other city in the US with more companies from Spain," he said, adding the proximity to Latin America is also a plus to get plugged into those markets — another goal for the foundation is to open the doors to Latin America to both Spanish and American companies.
"Miami and Florida are still the gateway to Latin America," he said. "And there is no better place than Miami to do business with Spain and other European companies."