The country earns the title 'Floridian of the Year'
Brazilian entrepreneur Luis Claudio Goldner plans to create 75 jobs paying an average of $62,000 when America's Natural Caffeine opens in Riviera Beach.
Significantly, says Smallridge, Goldner's first investment in Florida was a second home he bought in Fort Lauderdale two years ago. "One of the ways to open their eyes is to get them here as a tourist first," Smallridge says of recruiting businesses.
If so, the pipeline is growing as Brazilians flock to Florida for second homes and rental property. "Culturally, it's similar because there's a Latin environment here," says Saulo Ferraz, a Miami banker and president of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce of Florida. Brazilians — who speak Portugese, not Spanish —make up 8% of foreign buyers of Florida homes, says the National Association of Realtors. (Canadians are first with 39%.)
A condo that costs $600,000 to $700,000 in Brazil might cost $300,000 to $400,000 in Miami. "Brazil is, of course, the big story," says Miami real estate broker Alicia Cervera. "Brazilians' love affair with Miami continues to grow. A lot came as kids with their parents." Indeed, Goldner's parents have had a second home in Florida for 30 years.
Saulo Ferraz, president of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce of Florida, says the chamber gets three to five inquiries a month from Brazilians interested in doing business in Florida.
[Photo: Daniel Portnoy]
While Canada is by far Florida's largest market for non-U.S. visitors, the state has seen "astronomical" growth from Brazil, says Will Seccombe, chief marketing officer at Visit Florida, the state's tourism development arm. Brazil visitor numbers increased 50% in a year to just more than 1 million in 2010; their spending increased 78% to $1.4 billion. Through the first three quarters of 2011, visitors from Brazil were up 41% to 1.1 million, eclipsing the United Kingdom as the lead country for overseas visitors for the first time.
Brazilian visitor numbers are all the more remarkable given that the United States doesn't waive the visa requirement for Brazilians as it does for residents of the U.K. and 35 other countries. To visit here, Brazilians have to apply more than 100 days in advance for a visa and travel to the U.S. embassy or the three U.S. consulates in Brazil for a personal interview. If Brazil were added to the visa waiver list, Brazilian tourism would increase significantly, Seccombe says.
Giraffas, one of Brazil's largest restaurant chains, opened its first U.S. restaurant in North Miami last summer. [Photo: Giraffes]
The chain plans to invest $25 million to build its U.S. footprint in the next few years with each restaurant costing $600,000 to $1 million to develop and employing 25 to 30. The restaurant features Brazilian grilled steaks such as the country's signature beef cut, the picanha, along with Brazilian burgers, farofa and — in keeping with immigrant influences on Brazilian cuisine — stroganoff and pasta.
Giraffas joins at least 40 Brazilian-owned concerns that Enterprise Florida counts here, including gunmaker Taurus in Miami, steel supplier Gerdau in several cities and Odebrecht, the conglomerate that has been a major contractor at Miami International Airport, builder of American Airlines Arena and is the private-sector partner in the proposed Airport City, a hotel, office, retail project at the Miami airport.
Spending by Brazilians in Florida
Credit card purchases by Brazilian tourists in Florida (in millions of dollars)
|Sporting goods stores||22.1|
|Source: Visit Florida|