More than $50 million in potential trade and tourism revenue might be headed to Central Florida after a summer trade mission by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando (HCCMO) to Costa Rica, a top chamber official said.
"The idea was to bring companies who were interested in doing business with Central Florida," Diana BolÝvar, president of the HCCMO, said to HispanicBusiness.com. "That was our primary purpose, to let the companies in Costa Rica know what was available to them here in Central Florida."
Two objectives of the trip were to stimulate trade and create jobs in Central Florida. The relationships formed during the trade mission to Costa Rica provides the chamber plenty of prospects to continue expanding Central Florida's economy, Ms. BolÝvar said.
City of Orlando Commissioner Tony Ortiz and Osceola County Commissioner John Qui˝ones accompanied the delegation for the four-day trade mission in July, intending to spur commerce between the two regions. The chamber set up meetings with technology and pharmaceutical companies, attorneys, and accountants in advance of the trip.
"It was very nice to see the amount of business opportunity that is available to entrepreneurs here in the United States who are interested in big business," Ms. BolÝvar said. "And there was a lot of great connections I saw from governments to other chambers, many different connections who were willing to forge that partnership.
"The event was of particular importance to small-business entrepreneurs (in Costa Rica) who don't regularly have the time to look into the Central Florida market."
Among the workshops offered during the trade mission was a "Doing Business With Central Florida" seminar, which was attended by more than 100 business leaders interested in economic opportunities in the area. The HCCMO expects trade and tourism with Costa Rica to bring in more than $50 million annually to Central Florida.
The symposium also benefited larger businesses.
JetBlue, sponsor and one of the original advocates of the trip, had been in discussions with Costa Rica prior to the visit and used the occasion to strengthen its partnership with the country. Another primary sponsor, Port Canaveral, was able to showcase its tourism and port industries.
The mission provided "an opportunity for all those exporters who were exporting to Florida to consider using Port Canaveral as one of their ports as opposed to Miami, Jacksonville or Havana," Ms. BolÝvar said.
Potential on both sides
Ms. BolÝvar said the economic impact will be reciprocated because Costa Rica will be selling its products and services in Florida.
"If it impacts Florida with $50 million, that means we're buying their products and services," said Ms. BolÝvar, adding, "the economic impact, although I couldn't get it in numbers, would be equally as high for them because they're going to have that opportunity to sell those services and their products."
With the apparent success of the trade mission to Costa Rica, more interaction between the two regions is already being planned, with a delegation from Costa Rica visiting Central Florida to look into further business prospects.
Although the two areas might seem to have little in common, Ms. BolÝvar said their economies are more similar than one might expect.
"One of the things that surprised me was they pretty much have the same challenges my members have here," Ms. BolÝvar said. "Entrepreneurs in all businesses are really the backbone of most countries, certainly the United States."
The HCCMO has already begun planning its next Latin American trip to Puerto Rico in 2014.
Puerto Rico bound
A possible trade relation between Puerto Rico and Costa Rica is one reason why Puerto Rico was chosen to be the next destination.
Ms. BolÝvar said another reason is that, with more than 70 percent of HCCMO members being Puerto Rican, the connection the members have with the island is a good reason for visiting. HCCMO visited Puerto Rico two years ago.
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