Published On: Mon, Dec 14th, 2020

Zucaro, Smallridge urge trade, tourism link between Palm Beach County and Bahrain

By: Dale King

A couple of business-focused, heavy-hitters from Palm Beach County joined forces at a webinar last week to promote the development of a business partnership and tourism link between South Florida and the Kingdom of Bahrain, a highly developed island nation in the Persian Gulf.

The web-based program offered talks by Alfred Zucaro Jr. and Kelly Smallridge and included response comments from folks on the islands who touched on the history of the country that has grown from a protectorate of the United Kingdom to an independent nation today. The island chain is now home to big cities, fashionable homes, schools, a vibrant tourist industry and extensive trade in aluminum products and linens.

Zucaro was on hand representing the World Trade Center Palm Beach (WTCPB). The purpose of the organization is to “bring international business to Palm Beach and its neighbors,” said a statement on its website.

Smallridge is president and CEO of Palm Beach County’s public/private economic development agency, the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County (BDB), where she has worked for 32 years. She serves as the longest tenured economic development president in Florida and has a solid track record in facilitating some of the largest job creation projects for Palm Beach County.

“Bahrain, an open, tolerant and cosmopolitan country, is recognized as one of the most liberal business environments in the world,” said Zucaro. “Its economy is the most diversified in the region, with strengths in the financial and technology sectors. As the Gateway to the Gulf, its strategic location provides a perfect hub and easy access to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and the broader Middle East and North Africa regions.”

He said the Kingdom of Bahrain recently made history with its signing of the Abraham Accords along with the U.A.E. and, subsequently, the nation of Sudan.

“Here at WTCPB, we believe that the United States and Bahrain have a prosperous future as international trading and finance partners,” he added.

Broadcasting from Bahrain, educator Dr. Khalid Al Khalifa offered an overview of the nation’s school system, which he noted has representation from only a single university in the United States. “I established the University College of Bahrain in 2002 for the people of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.”

“I’d like to see an American educational facility here. I would be pleased to work with an American university.”

Smallridge countered with comments about the best of Palm Beach County, a region which she said has “grown from a tourism, real estate and service-based economy to one with vibrant metropolitan areas.”

With a $300 billion Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the county, like the rest of Florida, has no state or local income taxes. The area is home to 43 billionaires, 71,000 millionaires and 33,000 residents in the financial services workforce.

Offering an informational description of Bahrain, Rose Sager, a trade representative, said the nation is “a small island off the coast of Saudi Arabia.”

A free and open society, she noted that Bahrain is a Muslim country, “but all religions are practiced.  All coexist peacefully. Religious freedom is the law of the land.”

Sager also noted that Bahraini women “are fully independent and are employed in all occupations.” The island, she said, “is attractive to business and tourism.” The country has “a high standard of living and has developed a business structure since the 1960s.”

Like Florida, she said, Bahrain “has no income tax or corporate tax.” Six nearby nations are considered its business market. The closest, Saudi Arabia, “is connected by sea and air,” and can also be reached by car via a series of bridges and causeways.

Sager was given the position of trade representative for the Kingdom of Bahrain in 2006, upon the implementation of the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement. Under the auspices of the Trade Office at the Embassy for the Kingdom of Bahrain, her role is to facilitate and promote the Free Trade Agreement, increase bilateral trade and establish major business/government contacts.

Rose continuously seeks to establish Bahrain as the Gateway to the Gulf, an investment choice for the US business market as well as an exotic tourist destination.

Educated in the United States, Sager’s career has included positions in the financial and insurance industries and she was training director at a major U.S. airline. She has promoted the Kingdom of Bahrain at various forums and trade shows and provided presentations at conferences, chambers of commerce and universities. 

Nabeel Ajoor, a Bahamian businessman, said he comes from a family that is involved in the business sector. He told those attending the webinar that he encourages establishing ties between the U.S. and Bahrain.

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