Nearly 200 Spanish companies make homes in Miami
By Patricia Hoyos
Spanish firms continue to view South Florida as a key entryway into the US and Latin American markets, boosting the local economy with their investments and creating thousands of jobs.
Spain is the country with largest number of companies established in South Florida, said Spanish Trade Commissioner Mario Buisán García. About 60% of the more than 300 Spanish companies in Florida are established in Miami.
Approximately 47% of those are in the service sector, 23% in consumer goods, 22% in the industrial sector and 8% in agro foods, he said.
Companies with the funds to invest in foreign markets look at Miami as an ideal location because of the large network of Spanish companies that are already in the county, the proximity to Latin America and the lowering of language barriers.
Mario Sacasa, senior vice president of the Beacon Council, said that Spanish companies from the financial sector to the biotechnical sector to logistics and distribution sector are interested in Miami-Dade County. The Beacon Council has assisted close to 80 Spanish firms set up in Miami since 1997.
"It's a very important impact as far as the creation of jobs," he said, "and many of these foreign companies tend to pay higher salaries."
Mr. Buisán García said that Spanish companies have created an estimated 16,000 jobs in Miami-Dade.
Spanish banks have perhaps the most notable presence in Miami with well-known brands like TotalBank, Sabadell United Bank and City National Bank of Florida.
Beyond financial institutions, other Spanish firms with a major presence in Miami include broadband and telecommunications provider Telefonica USA Inc.; Eulen America, a provider of business outsourcing services in the aviation, facility maintenance, janitorial and security sectors that serves the Miami International Airport; ACS Infrastructure Development Inc., which has worked on I-595; and the Roca Tile Group, which manufactures, distributes and markets high-quality ceramic and porcelain tile under four brands.
Provider of food, beverage and retail services Areas USA entered the US market in 2006 after it won a contract with its first US airport at Miami International Airport. Since then, the company has made a mark in the US market, setting up its US headquarters in Miami, expanding to 10 airports throughout the nation and employing about 800 people throughout Florida, including 45 in the company's Miami location, said Xavier Rabell, CEO of Areas USA,
With over 40 years in the concessions business, the Barcelona-headquartered company won a 30-year contract in 2009 to renovate the service plazas along the Florida Turnpike. The first newly renovated service plaza will open next month in Pompano Beach and in two years all the Florida Turnpike service plazas will be renovated by Areas USA, he said.
Another company that is solidifying its presence in Miami is Espacio USA, a real estate development group headquartered in Spain that has been growing its Miami division.
Having entered the Miami market two years ago, Alberto Muños, Espacio USA's CEO, said the company felt comfortable doing business in Miami because of similarities in the way business is done in Miami to how it's done in Europe.
Espacio USA has invested more than $1.5 million in capital improvements to enhance a 150,000-square-foot mixed-use office and retail complex, 1400 Biscayne Center on Biscayne Boulevard, driving its occupancy from 11% to 70% in less than two years. The building also houses Spanish tenants, Mr. Muños said, like the Centro Cultural Español, which is one of the building's newest tenants after leasing 5,500 square feet.
Now that Espacio USA has been able to successfully penetrate the Miami market, the company is looking at New York for future investment opportunities, he said.
"There are from small companies to family companies, all the way to the big institutions," the Beacon Council's Mr. Sacasa said. "This is an active market, and there's a reason. They [see] the United States as a place where they want to expand. Many of these companies are expanding here, and they look at the marketplace, despite [the] recession, as potentially a market that's going to grow fast."
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