Faces of Florida-Colombia Trade
Miami is the 'Gateway to America'
» In Bogotá’s gritty industrial west side is the headquarters for Mario Hernandez, a Colombian designer of luxury handbags, suitcases and shoes. More than 350 people work at his headquarters, producing leather handbags from Italian leather stamped with Hernandez’s signature butterfly design. (The shoes and suitcases are made elsewhere.)
The designer, whose office is adorned with framed photos, letters and articles praising his company, including one of former President Bill Clinton, says his business grew 20% last year to $35 million. Established in 1978, Mario Hernandez now has nearly 50 stores in Latin America and Aruba. Hernandez says he wants to conquer Florida next.
Hernandez had a New York City store in the early 1990s and a Boca Raton location in the early-to mid-2000s. He says he is invigorated by the new free trade agreement with the United States and plans to make his third foray into the U.S. with a store in downtown Miami. “Miami is the gateway to America,” Hernandez says.
» The push to invest in Colombia’s infrastructure has been lucrative for Miami’s Zyscovich Architects. The firm, which has its only overseas office in Bogotá, designed the new international and domestic terminals at El Dorado International Airport. The modern glass-walled international terminal opened in October with construction on the domestic terminal ending in 2014. Zyscovich is also involved in 13 other Colombia-related projects, from regional airports to schools. The firm has been working in Colombia for seven years, and 70% of its international revenue comes from Colombia. Bernard Zyscovich, the firm’s president, says the company has “strong roots” in the country, and one of the firm’s seven principals is Colombian. “We are looking at Colombia as a base to eventually get into other countries throughout South America and the Caribbean,” he says.