November 23, 2020

Trade Trendsetters

Taking Florida International

Mike Vogel | 6/1/2008
Manuel Mencia
Manuel Mencia [Photo: Daniel Portnoy]
Manny Mencia began in international business development for Florida when Reubin Askew was governor, Telex was the way high-speed written communications went overseas and the trade center of the Americas was ... New Orleans.

“We came from nowhere in the mid-1970s, a very minor player,” says Mencia, Florida’s top international business development executive, “to one of the regions of the United States where, when you think of international business, it’s one of the ones you think of.”

Similarly, when you think of international business development in Florida, you think of Mencia. The Cuba native worked for the old Florida Department of Commerce and the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic development organization, before joining Enterprise Florida in 1996. He’s the only remaining senior vice president from the founding group.

Manuel Mencia

Enterprise Florida
International Trade and Business Development
senior vice president, Miami

Carry-on only: Can live a week out of “my trusty Travelpro.” “I believe in Murphy’s Law. The day you most need that suit in the suitcase is the day they send it to the Czech Republic rather than France or Belgium or wherever it’s supposed to be.”

Bio: Left Cienfuegos, Cuba, for Miami in 1962. All grandparents were Spaniards. His father, a dentist, worked until 80. His sister is renowned dancer Marielena Mencia. Has been married for 26 years to Carol.

On going up Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain or to Christ the Redeemer statue: “Even if you’ve done it before, it’s still an amazing experience.”

He’s visited more than 90 countries in the years that have seen Florida become second only to

California in number of exporters and second to none in the percentage of small- and medium-sized exporters. Though he once made the national press for saying you can trace Florida’s emergence in trade “to when Fidel Castro started reading Karl Marx at the University of Havana,” Mencia also credits Florida’s geography, governors and 14 deepwater ports along with immigrants.

At 57, he doesn’t plan to stop. “In the end I believe there’s no greater gift than getting up in the morning and truly, truly wanting to get to work.”

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