"This has really expanded our reach and exposure," says Carlos Concepcion, a partner in the firm and now co-chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's Americas Linkage program. Concepcion estimates that his firm has generated about $100,000 in revenue over the past three years from clients signed during chamber-sponsored trips to Latin America.
Americas Linkage got its start in 2000 after Miami-Dade business leaders recognized that little was being done to market the region's service sector internationally.
The key component of the program is a trade mission to Latin American commercial centers such as S?o Paulo, Brazil; Mexico City; and Santiago, Chile. This year's mission included stops in 13 cities. Sixty-eight Florida professionals participated.
Visits to each city include meetings with trade organizations and local chamber of commerce officials and one-on-one meetings with prospective clients. American Airlines, one of the program's founding partners, provides deeply discounted tickets for participants. Other fees are nominal.
The program also includes an "in-bound" trade mission each fall, when Latin American executives are invited to Miami for a series of workshops, seminars and networking opportunities.
"There are plenty of programs to help support the traditional exports -- manufacturing goods and agriculture," says Marisa Feito, senior vice president for international services at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. "But more and more Florida is becoming a service economy, and we need to find more ways to promote what we have to offer."
Feito says Americas Linkage is the first program of its kind in the nation. The Department of Commerce has signed on as a partner and is closely monitoring the program with an eye for replicating it in other regions.
"The results -- for both the program and for our firm -- have really been quite spectacular," says Concepcion. "This is long overdue."
IN THE NEWS
Coral Gables -- High-end jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co. has opened its sixth Florida store at the upscale shopping mall The Village of Merrick Park.
Miami -- Air-cargo carrier DHL Airways will move its headquarters from Chicago to downtown Miami. About 22 employees will make the move; others will be hired locally within the coming year, say company executives. DHL is run by former Burger King Chairman and Miami resident John Dasburg.
In its continuing effort to streamline operations, American Airlines will eliminate about 150 international flight attendant jobs in Miami.
In another sign that Miami has recovered from a fiscal crisis that placed it on the brink of bankruptcy in the late '90s, Moody's Investors lifted the city's bond rating to A3. The city's bonds were at junk status as recently as three years ago.
Overall crime in Miami-Dade fell 3.7% last year, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Miami Beach saw the sharpest decline, 8%, followed by unincorporated Miami-Dade, 5.6%, and the city of Miami, 4.4%.
The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade's public/private economic development agency, ranks among the top 20 economic development groups in the U.S., according to a survey by Site Selection magazine. It is the only group from Florida to make the list. The rankings are based on the rate of job creation and new investment spurred by the group's initiatives. Meanwhile, the Beacon Council has announced that in the six months that ended in April the group assisted with 16 relocations and five expansions in Miami-Dade, resulting in 1,345 jobs.
Federal investigators are looking into allegations that United Teachers of Dade President Pat Tornillo spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in union funds on lavish vacations, gifts and expensive clothing. Among the questionable expenditures: A $20,000 bill for an eight-night stay in the penthouse suite of Miami's opulent Mandarin Oriental hotel. United Teachers of Dade represents the county's 28,000 public school teachers.
Miami-Dade Community College ranks third among community colleges in the U.S. for the level of information technology services available to students, faculty and employees. The rankings are based on survey responses collected by Converge magazine in conjunction with the Center for Digital Education.
Home construction in the first quarter of 2003 dropped 10.5% in Miami-Dade and nearly 50% in Broward, according to a report from the consulting group Metrostudy. Analysts attribute the drop to a growing scarcity of land in the far reaches of both counties. Illustrating the crunch: Home builder Lennar (NYSE-LEN) recently announced plans for its first ever condominium high-rise, a move executives have attributed to a shortage of large tracts of open land.
About 195 baggage and passenger screeners at Miami International Airport will lose their jobs as part of a nationwide cutback by the Transportation Security Administration.
Miami-Dade, once considered a lock to receive the permanent headquarters -- or secretariat -- of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, is facing unexpected competition from Atlanta. Georgia officials have established a corporation to promote their bid. Other cities in the race: Mexico City, Panama City and Port of Spain, Trinidad.
MIAMI-DADE -- Miami-Dade has the lowest concentration of office space in its downtown core of any big city, according to a study by the Brookings Institution. With just 13% of the county's office space downtown, the study finds, Miami-Dade is prone to ever-worsening traffic as workers commute to office parks scattered throughout the suburban fringes. Miami-Dade's traffic is among the worst in the nation.