DATE: June 6, 2012
MEDIA CONTACT: Kimberly Maroe, Public Information Manager
Broward County Board of County Commissioners
Broward County will be one of several official co-sponsors welcoming a large delegation of mayors from Colombia, South America, to encourage and increase free trade and promote economic development. The U.S Colombia free trade agreement went into effect last month. The agreement eliminates duty on 80 percent of the commerce between two countries, and 20 percent phased out over time
The “Celebrate Free Trade with Colombia” event will bring a delegation of between 40-50 mayors to Broward County, September 9-13, 2012.
“Significance in South Florida cannot be underestimated. The International Trade Commission estimates that the deal will expand U.S. exports by $1.1 billion and support thousands of new jobs. South Florida is expected to be a big beneficiary,” said Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness, who brought forward the idea.
Co-sponsorship will allow County participation in activities that support the event such as soliciting for other co-sponsors to cover expenses as well as allowing County staff to assist in coordination of related activities. The Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Broward County and MCM International Business Corporation join the County in co-sponsorship. It is the intent that all costs associated with this event will be subsidized by co-sponsors other than Broward County.
“The more we can build these relationships and this is an incoming mission, why not take advantage of it? It helps the County because people will stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants. They'll promote the economy as we all do when we visit other places. The potential is there for short- and long-term economic benefit,” said Commissioner Ilene Lieberman.
In 2011, the number of Colombians visiting Florida rose by 13 percent, which made Colombia fifth in spending by foreign visitors. Approximately 238,509 passengers flew from Fort Lauderdale to Colombia in the past 12 months. Residents of Colombian ancestry make up the third largest group of Hispanics in Broward with a population of 66,500 people.
“I had the opportunity to spend some time with mayors from Colombia and two governors and they want to be here in Broward County, and I’ve supported this from the beginning,” said Commissioner Chip LaMarca.
Commissioners favored Broward County taking a lead role in organizing the event, along with the partnership of all co-sponsors, in order to maximize economic development opportunities such as job creation, opportunities for local businesses and generating revenue in Broward County.
“I like missions out of the country for development, and I like missions into our country for development. I think they are critically important particularly in identifying revenue and jobs in particular,” said Commissioner Lois Wexler. “But to take full advantage of this Free Trade agreement opportunity I really want to see meaningful County involvement and accountability.”
“If you want to bring business to Broward County, you have to bring together the people who are doing business. We want our business people to meet with them too as well as government officials,” said Commissioner Sue Gunzburger. “I'd like to see that it's going to be a real mission that can help grow businesses both there and here.”
The Colombian mayors will tour Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center and attend a variety of business meetings, events and receptions planned throughout the County.
Commissioner Holness told Commissioners that updates will be provided as plans for the Colombian trade event move forward.