Miami-Dade unveils new strategy to court Brazil

Miami-Dade’s economic development agency releases a white paper advocating a coordinated approach to take advantage of business opportunities with Brazil.

As Brazil’s prosperity and global profile have risen, it has become South Florida’s top trading partner, the source of its most freely spending visitors and increasingly a source of investment in the local economy.

Now Miami-Dade business and economic development leaders have crafted a strategy aimed at helping the community take advantage of the opportunities the growing South American giant offers.

The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic development agency, released a white paper this week that offers specific recommendations on how to strengthen the county’s business relationship with Brazil and in the process create more local jobs.

“Our China is to the south of us — and that’s Brazil. But Brazil is a very large country and we need to have a laser-focus strategy to make sure we are operating in the correct manner,’’ said Frank R. Nero, president and chief executive of the Beacon Council.
Already, Brazil-South Florida annual trade tops $13 billion, Brazilian visitors are spending more than $1 billion yearly in the county, Brazilians are leading the pack in purchases of luxury condos in the downtown Miami/Brickell area, and they have begun to invest in local businesses or establish U.S. outposts here.

And business and marketing opportunities are expected to increase as the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics — both hosted by Brazil — approach.

In introducing the white paper, Jack Lowell, chairman of the Beacon Council, said: “Miami-Dade County’s established relations with Brazil provide us with a significant advantage over most other countries and definitely over other areas of the United States. To maintain this advantage, Miami-Dade County must continue to develop and strengthen these relationships.’’

The recommendations include:

• Pushing for a visa-waiver program with Brazil similar to those the United States has with most European countries, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea. Currently bills are pending in both the House and Senate to do away with visa requirements for Brazilian visitors.

Waiting time for a U.S. visa now ranges from 62 days in the Brazilian city of Recife to 142 days in the capital Brasilia.

Getting a visa waiver is a priority for the Beacon Council and is “probably the real game-changer,’’ said Nero, because it would not only boost tourism from Brazil but also make it easier for Brazilian executives to visit and potentially set up operations here.
“We plan to kick up our lobbying efforts,’’ said Nero.

• Organizing economic development missions to Brazil that target specific sub-markets and industry clusters because Brazil — the world’s seventh-largest economy — is too big to tackle as one unified market.

Enterprise Florida is planning an October trade mission to Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. Gov. Rick Scott plans to participate. The Beacon Council, which will be part of that mission, also plans a side trip to Belo Horizonte to meet with economic development officials and companies.

• Collaborating with local, state and Brazilian business organizations in Miami-Dade County to maximize efforts to promote the business climate.

• Working with business organizations such as chambers of commerce and economic development agencies in Brazil.

• Participating in trade shows, such as the large life science fairs Hospitalar and FCE Pharma in Sao Paulo.

• Marketing Miami-Dade in Brazil through the “Miami: Where Worlds Meet’’ campaign — a joint effort of the county, American Airlines, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Downtown Development Authority, Miami International Airport, the Port of Miami, and Baptist Health South Florida.
The white paper was an outgrowth of a March meeting organized by the Beacon Council that brought together Brazil experts, local and Brazilian companies, the Brazilian Consulate in Miami and economic development agencies.
“This is the foundation for a multi-year strategic plan,’’ said Nero. “We want to seize the opportunities Brazil offers as much as possible through a coordinated approach because no one has the resources to do this alone.”

BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
MWHITEFIELD@MIAMIHERALD.COM

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