Quebec firms troll three South Florida counties for sites
By Rachel Tannenbaum
The Quebec-Florida Chamber of Commerce brought eight businesses from Quebec to South Florida this week to expose them to professionals who can help them start businesses in the region.
Canada is Florida's main international economic partner, with the Quebec market responsible for approximately a quarter of the $8 billion annual trade between Canada and Florida.
Sophie Proulx, general director of the chamber's Florida division, said Florida is very spread out and that the chamber brought the eight businesses to Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties because they are looking for the best place to start businesses in Florida.
"All the counties are like different countries and each has different points of view," Ms. Proulx said.
The itinerary included getting to know Florida markets, planning and financing expansion, developing the adequate marketing strategy, getting ready for business meetings and completing the trade mission follow-up. Businesses involved in the mission included a construction company, a high-tech company, a biomedical company and a food industry.
The mission highlighted the importance of the business relationship between Quebec and Florida in a three-day event that brought speakers like local businesses, mayors and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
On Monday, the first day of the mission, Ms. Proulx said, the group visited West Palm Beach, where Mr. Scott spoke to them about how starting businesses in Florida would help with job creation.
Despite the effects of the economic crisis in both countries, the Canadian government's website says two-way trade rebounded 20% in 2010 to reach almost $8 billion, withstanding the downturn and highlighting efficiencies created by trade integration.
"He talked about how opening business in Florida buys a lot of real estate," Ms. Proulx said. "He discussed how the Canadian market is good for Florida economy and how the currency in Canada is very good."
On Tuesday the group was in Broward, where Ms. Proulx said it met with chambers of commerce and other entities.
"They were explaining what Broward has to offer," she said.
On Wednesday, Ms. Proulx said, the group was to visit Miami and the Miami Free Zone, the Canadian Consulate in Miami and other main players.
"We wanted to visit the port because a lot of people in the group wanted to meet with all the cruises," Ms. Proulx said. "Many of them sell food, and the cruise line is a good market."
She said Florida is also a key gateway to Latin America, which can benefit the Quebec businesses.
"Many of the people speak French, and it is easier to learn Spanish than English," Ms. Proulx said. "Miami has a lot of Spanish-speaking businesses."
Ms. Proulx said all eight businesses attending were happy with the people they met but it also leaves them with a tough decision.
"The toughest part is that all the counties want to offer wonderful things, but [businesses] have to do what is best for them," she said. "After the three days, the businesses have a good feel for Florida and a lot to decide on."
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