Thursday, April 19, 2018
Business

Chile trip could pay off economically for Tampa Bay, officials say

TAMPA — Jay Conroy could have traveled to Chile by himself to try to connect with potential customers for his company.

As owner and president of Hydo-Dyne Engineering, Conroy knows there is a demand in the booming South American country for the kind of water treatment equipment his Clearwater-based firm manufactures, but there would be no guarantee he would get face time with, as he put it, "the people that matter."

That wasn't a problem last week, when Conroy joined a historic trade mission to Chile organized by economic development officials on both sides of Tampa Bay. Among his travel partners: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel and Hillsborough Commissioner Les Miller. Conroy had 11 meetings with potential clients during the trip.

"We kind of came down with a certain bit of clout that normally we wouldn't have if we just showed up in a country knocking on people's doors trying to push our products," Conroy said at a news conference Tuesday at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay.

The voyage was first of its kind since the Tampa Bay Export Alliance was formed this year to boost the region's export activity. Representatives from 14 companies headed south for meetings with potential customers. The U.S. Department of Commerce vetted each company and arranged the meetings.

The companies combined took part in more than 100 meetings that resulted in solid leads and an estimated $9 million in expected export orders and counting, said Rick Homans, CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., which formed the alliance with counterpart Pinellas County Economic Development.

Burnishing their beginner Spanish skills, Kriseman and Buckhorn met with Santiago Mayor Carolina Tohá Morales and signed an agreement pledging support for increased trade, education and cultural activities between their respective cities.

"These missions are about relationships and you cannot do relationships over the phone, you cannot do them in text messages or emails," Kriseman said. "They have to be face to face, and that's where this mission was so successful."

For officials from Visit St. Pete/Clearwater and Visit Tampa Bay, the trip was an opportunity to introduce Tampa Bay to a country more familiar with Miami and Orlando. They met nearly 150 tour operators and travel agents who hope to take advantage of a new visa waiver program between U.S. and Chile and the new service to the country offered by Copa Airlines from Tampa International Airport.

In Santiago's epic traffic jams, Curt Thomas saw opportunity. The automotive parts manufacturer already ships worldwide from its headquarters in Brooksville, but the Chilean trip connected the company with distributors who can move high-volume orders, said Thomas, Monster's vice president of operations.

The company representatives paid their own way, and the export alliance paid travel expenses for the elected officials with private dollars.

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

Comments
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Updated: 12 hours ago
St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

ST. PETERSBURG — Beef jerky, mayonnaise and Altoids mints were the only edible things in view inside one of the houses. There was no running water. The refrigerator was empty. A bed sat on top of the deteriorating living room floor. Cigarette butts b...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Marriott Edition to bring five-star hotel ambitions to Water Street Tampa

Marriott Edition to bring five-star hotel ambitions to Water Street Tampa

TAMPA — At the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City, hotelier Ian Schrager transformed a Jazz Age building with its own rich history into a destination offering even more heady experiences — extravagant, edgy and bohemian.In Tampa, Schrager will have...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Here’s your first look at what will be Riverwalk Place, Tampa’s tallest tower

Here’s your first look at what will be Riverwalk Place, Tampa’s tallest tower

TAMPA — Developers on Thursday detailed plans for what they touted as the tallest building on Florida’s west coast, with condominiums priced in six and seven figures and a shimmering glass design they say would stand out in the skylines of New York, ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The St. Pete Pier takes another step forward

The St. Pete Pier takes another step forward

ST. PETERSBURG — Development of the city’s long-awaited pier advanced another step Thursday.The City Council approved a $15 million construction contract and additional money to design a waterside restaurant, build a playground and ferret out naming ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Those who use mass transit across the Tampa Bay area can ride for free on Sunday.To celebrate Earth Day, both the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) will be offering free rides on Su...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Wells Fargo said to be target of $1 billion fine

Wells Fargo said to be target of $1 billion fine

Federal regulators are poised to impose a $1 billion penalty on Wells Fargo for a number of alleged misdeeds, including forcing customers to buy auto insurance policies that they didn’t need, according to people briefed on the regulatory action. The ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as CEO

Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as CEO

CLEARWATER — A longtime IBM executive is becoming the new leader of Tampa Bay’s largest public company. Tech Data on Thursday named Richard "Rich" Hume as its new CEO effective June 6. Hume joined Tech Data two years ago and is currently the chief op...
Published: 04/19/18
LA Fitness tones up Hillsborough location

LA Fitness tones up Hillsborough location

When LA Fitness on West Hillsborough Ave. reopens mid-summer, it will have undergone a $5 million renovation and a complete transformation. Closed since November 2017, the 10-year-old facility was completely torn down and is still undergoing construc...
Published: 04/19/18
Kids have fun and gain coding skills at Code Ninja in Westchase

Kids have fun and gain coding skills at Code Ninja in Westchase

A new program that teaches coding to kids is coming to the Tampa Bay area. Code Ninjas is a Houston-based franchise that is opening its first location in Westchase in early May. There are plans for other centers in Carrollwood, South Tampa, New Tampa...
Published: 04/19/18