Published On: Tue, Feb 2nd, 2021

World Trade Center Palm Beach and Hispanic Entreprenuer Initiative host the México Consulado General en Miami to discuss trade

This past Thursday the World Trade Center Palm Beach (WTCPB) and the Hispanic Entrepreneur Initiative (HEI) hosted a delegation from the México Consulado General en Miami along with individuals and organizations from various facets of Palm Beach County and Boca Raton ranging from education and business development to tourism and healthcare.

The event was a mix of virtual and in-person attendance and was moderated by immigration lawyer and founder of WTCPB Alfred Zucaro. The gathering was an opportunity for those participating to present resources available in Palm Beach County and explore cultural, educational, and economic opportunities that an increased relationship between Mexico and South Florida would present.

“We believe that this is a great opportunity for Mexico and Florida,” said Consul General Johnathan Chait in his opening statement. The Consul General also stressed education, talked tourism opportunities for Mexicans, mentioned the prevalence of Mexican small-business owners in the area, and highlighted the importance of community relations.

Accompanying the Consul General was the Consulado de México en Miami’s Consul for Economic and Commercial Affairs Alexia Nunez, Consul for Scientific Cooperation and Education Araceli Grave Aguilar, and the Consulate’s Head of Community Affairs Elsy Diaz Izquierdo.

Mexico is Florida’s second biggest trade partner and according to Chait the newly signed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade (USMCA) presents openings that have not yet been capatalized on. Chait went on to talk about the development of the Florida/Mexico Working Group and the importance of maritime trade.

Various representatives from the transportation industry were present to discuss maritime trade and transportation, including Palm Beach Port Director Manuel Almira.

After touching briefly on the uncertainty of when cruise activities can commence, he discussed trade. “The biggest challenge that we face at the Port of Palm Beach is the close proximity to…Mexico, most of the cargo that travels from or is destined to Mexico travels by truck or rail,” he said.

Almira expressed an interest in increasing commercial relationships with Mexico, saying “We may be able to tap into a market that could…utilize” the Ports of Palm Beach, which is the fourth largest in Florida. He also pointed out that they are the only port facility in south Florida operating a rail system with pier-side box, hopper, and intermodal cars operating 24 hours a day.

Execute Director of the Boca Raton Regional Airport Clara Bennett and Assistant Direction of the Palm Beach International Airport Gary Sypeks also spoke, both discussing travel and employment opportunities their respective institutions provide.

CEO of Palm Beach County’s Business Development Board (BDB) Kelly Smallridge discussed how her organization presents opportunities for international dealings, and how corporations they bring to PBC provide employment opportunities.

“For our special guests that are here it’s really a unique model in terms of how we go about bringing outside investment into Palm Beach County because it is a collaboration of business, government, and education leaders in order to bring…quality growth and diversification into Palm Beach County” Smallridge said. Also present was President and CEO of the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce Troy McCellan.

Chief Medical Officer at Boca Regional Dr. Samer Fahmy then spoke about the impact and challenges of COVID-19 over last year and tying that into the tourism industry was Glenn Jurgenson of the Tourism Development Council and President of Discover Palm Beaches Jorge Pesquera.

“The pandemic has certainly done a number on us, but we are moving forward, we are seeing the uptick…” Jurgenson said.

Pesquera spoke about how COVID-19 safety is a priority in PBC and how initiatives such as the Palm Beaches Pledge help tourists feel safe. Following that Senior Director of Leisure Sales at Discover Palm Beaches Erick Garnica discussed why Mexico is a target market for the Palm Beaches, and what the Palm Beaches has to offer.

There is the obvious proximity connection, but Garnica points out that “[Discover Palm Beaches has] diversified attributes that align well with the consumer mindset of the Mexican traveler…and the U.S. is the second largest overseas travel market for Mexicans.”

In his closing remarks Chait also pointed out that the accessibility of the Brightline is beneficial for the Mexican tourist.

Speaking about education was PBC School Board member and first Hispanic woman to be elected Alexandria Ayala and Mary Sol González, who co-founded the HEI. They were followed by Keiser University Chancellor Arthur Keiser, Dean at Lynn University R.T. Good, and Vice President at Palm Beach State College Dr. Roger Yohe later in the program.

Although the statistical breakdown shows that less than 1% of the Hispanic students in Palm Beach County are Mexican, those numbers “are not really representative of…contribution that the Mexican-American and Mexican communities have made to our county,” Ayala pointed out.

That contribution is reflected “through our small business community, our agricultural sectors, our service communities, and our professional sectors,” Ayala argued.

She also shared how individuals or organizations can support specific needs of the community as well as cultural awareness through various programs such as Latinos in Action.

After Ayala spoke, Consul General Chait offered to build a partnership and share educational information. “We have programs…and hopefully later on we can get in touch with you,” Chait said.

González, who was interviewed in November as part of the Boca Raton Tribune’s “Business Highlights” segment, then discussed how her non-profit organization allows “Hispanic entrepreneurs, diplomatic corps, corporations, and leaders join efforts to make a difference in our community by supporting the operation and creation of…business…through training and coaching.”

You can view her interview with the Tribune here.

Executive Director of the non-profit Hispanic Human Resources Council Jorge Avellana addressed resources and opportunities prevalent for Mexican nationals through his organization.

First created in 1976 to assist in getting undocumented Hispanic workers in PBC vaccinated, the Hispanic Human Resources Council has supplied the community with various needs over the years. They currently run a Head Start program for children which provides extended hours to assist with working parents.

Avellana offered excess office space to the Consulado de México en Miami’s staff free of charge on the weekends, WiFi included, to help the Hispanic community in PBC.

With his closing statement Chait remarks that the event was a “wonderful opportunity for the Consulate” to see the interesting relationship between Mexican and PBC companies and touched on educational opportunities a student exchange program would provide.

Finally, Deputy Mayor of PBC Robert Weinroth addressed the delegation. “South Florida certainly embraces employment, and embraces international trade for both of our countries…and I look forward to continuing these discussions reinforcing our relationships…going forward,” he said. 

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