Port Manatee hosts International Business Lunch

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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla.- While tourism is growing on the Suncoast, Port Manatee is looking at ways to sustain our local economy for the long haul. Port officials hope a new trade relationship will mean more revenue, and most importantly, more jobs.

The who's who of international trade, on the Suncoast, were at Port Manatee today to discuss developing their exports with Colombia. The United States signed a free trade agreement with the country just last year, and Hispanic business leaders and entrepreneurs are now utilizing one of Florida's largest and fastest growing deep water seaports. Port Manatee's executive director explains the ideal location of the port.

“Port Manatee is the west coast of Florida's port gateway to Latin America. It is ideally situated. We have lots of customers. We have opportunities. We have really the intermodal network that is required by exporters and importers to bring products in and out of the port,” said Carlos Buqueras.

Business leaders like Jorge Chacon, founder of the Gulf Coast Latin Chamber of Commerce, hopes to get entrepreneurs' attention on the advantages of trading with Colombia and Latin countries.

“We're going to be doing a trade mission to Colombia in March of 2015, and this is just to get the people acquainted and interested, and wetting their appetites,” said Chacon.

As the president of Florida's International Business Council, Jay Almeida believes the growing Hispanic community here in Manatee and Sarasota county can benefit not only by exporting their products mostly duty free, but also with more available job opportunities due to increasing trade.

“The Hispanic community is avid, is looking for another opportunity. And because they're spending so much more business in Port Manatee, or Sarasota, in the area, there's more jobs and more revenue for the people. So this is very, very important,” said Almeida.