If you have ever heard Mayor Bob Buckhorn speak of his beloved Tampa Bay, you have undoubtedly heard him say “Tampa, this is our time” and Mr. Mayor, Tampa Bay couldn’t agree with you more.
Mayor Buckhorn has participated in many overseas trade missions, including Brazil in October 2013, where he signed a Sister City Agreement of Partnership with Porto Alegre, Brazil, and speaks at many international trade events throughout the Bay area. It is fitting that Mayor Buckhorn was invited to deliver the Welcome Address at the inaugural luncheon of the newly formed Brazil-Florida Business Council (BFBC) based in Tampa Bay last Wednesday (March 11).
The mission of the BFBC is to foster business relations between Brazil and the state of Florida in order to increase trade and investment flows. BFBC Founder and President Sueli Bonaparte, a native of São Paulo, Brazil, and former Executive Director of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce in New York, said, “Florida is in an exceptional strategic position with respect to trade with Brazil – the world’s seventh largest economy. It’s the right time and Tampa is the right place to launch this organization.”
The inaugural luncheon was held at The Tampa Club with more than 100 in attendance. The event was sold out weeks in advance and brought together a diverse audience to celebrate this highly anticipated council. Representatives from the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida, attended the event along with representatives from the Tampa Bay Export Alliance, Enterprise Florida, U.S. Export Assistance Center and Port Tampa Bay.
I believe the formation of the BFBC couldn’t have come at a better time. The public does not know about the many opportunities available to Florida companies with Brazil and vice-versa and I believe this council will change that. (Selma Canas is the secretary on the 2015 BFBC Board.)
On March 30, the Brazil Business Briefing event will focus on Understanding the Brazilian market, featuring Stephen P. Knode, Deputy Senior Commercial Officer, US Commercial Service in Brazil, speaking on Overcoming Challenges and Seizing Business Opportunities. These are the types of events that I am excited about. They provide pertinent information that can help businesses enter the Brazilian market.
Gabrielle Mandel, Country Manager, Brazil and Southern Cone, U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) delivered the keynote address and provided information on current projects in Brazil, which happens to be the largest portfolio in South America with more than 100 projects. Brazil is the only country in Latin America with a local USTDA representative, which utilizes a third of their budget. According to Mandel, aviation is the largest sector followed by surface transportation and water projects.
There is currently a request for proposal for an engineering review of a new water treatment plant project in Rio de Janeiro, which closes on April 13. For details, click here. Mandel said, “Brazil is a dynamic portfolio for U.S. trade,” and encouraged companies to pitch project ideas to the USTDA for review and consideration of available grant funds for bringing the project to fruition.
During his introduction of Mandel, Rick Homans, CEO and President of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, said, “This is a very important council. Sueli is a doer, not just a talker; and Tampa Bay is a community of doer’s.”
Bonaparte showed her dedication by establishing the BFBC and recruiting diverse and distinguished professionals for the Board of Directors and Advisory Board in just three months.
Guests also included business professionals from Brazil who flew in for the luncheon and to conduct business in Tampa. “Brazil is welcome here,” Buckhorn said. “We are a willing partner and will deliver what we say we will. Our future will be forever intertwined and profitable for Brazil and Florida.”
Hear, hear Mr. Mayor.
Photo courtesy of the Brazil-Florida Business Council.