As economic ties expand, Enterprise Florida plans Brazil base
By Zachary S. Fagenson
Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development agency, plans to become a permanent fixture in Brazil to help Florida companies export to Latin America's largest economy and draw Brazilian investments here.
"Brazil is Florida's opposite, much like China," said Washington Economics Group principal and St. Thomas University business Dean J. Antonio Villamil at Enterprise Florida's August board meeting at the Biltmore Hotel. "Its economy is expected to grow 8% this year and the International Monetary Fund is predicting 5% growth the following year."
About 300,000 to 350,000 Brazilians live in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, said Richard Sanchez, head of the Doral Chamber of Commerce's Brazilian Marketing Annex and president of logistics firm Moriah International, which helps South Florida companies export to Brazil.
Brazil, which maintains one of its 10 US consulates in Miami, was South Florida's top trading partner in 2009, with more than $11 billion in goods moving between Brazil and the Miami Customs District. Number 2 Colombia had little more than half that, $5.7 billion.
"We see great potential [in Brazil] also as a foreign direct investment market for Florida," said Manny Mencia, Enterprise Florida vice president of international trade development. "You already have major Brazilian companies like Odebrecht that have made major commitments to Florida."
An "organization or company that is already well-vested into that market, has excellent contacts and is very well networked" will represent the agency, he added, most likely in São Paulo, Brazil's largest city.
And though it would serve as a hub to attract Brazilian business to Florida, its near-term focus is trade promotion.
"The overarching goal would be to promote both trade and investment," Enterprise Florida President and CEO John Adams Jr. wrote via e-mail, but more emphasis initially would be on supporting Florida exporters.
The agency is in the midst of evaluating objectives for the company and expects to request contractors' proposals soon.
The São Paulo outpost would join others in Canada and Mexico in a network of more than 10 offices for which the Enterprise Florida will spend nearly $1.2 million of its overall $11.1 million 2010-2011 budget.
Third-party companies do most of the agency's foreign work.
"We award performance-based contracts to find the right partner. That's why it requires an evaluation of what kind of… company fits us best," Mr. Mencia said. "Together we develop a set of realistic objectives and then give them a contract to reach those objectives, and it gets us out of the business of having to pay for overhead."
In Asia, Enterprise Florida has representatives in Beijing, Japan, Shanghai and Taiwan. It has representatives in Israel and an African office in South Africa. In Europe it has representatives in the Czech Republic and offices in Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The agency should be closing in on a selection for Brazil by November, Mr. Mencia said, with the office up and running "sometime early next year."