TAMPA — A Tampa delegation has returned from a trade mission to Barranquilla, Colombia, with business leads expected to yield an estimated $7.3 million in sales, officials said Monday.
The group first accompanied Gov. Rick Scott's larger trade mission to Bogota. Then about 30 people from the Tampa Bay area headed to Barranquilla, a major port that is one of Tampa's sister cities, from Wednesday through Saturday.
There, 11 Florida companies did a speed dating-style round of 102 business meetings with Colombian firms. From those meetings emerged 55 solid leads, officials said.
Just as important, the trip was about building relationships that could pay off in the future.
"People want to do business with people they know," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who led the delegation. City Hall did not pay for the mayor's travel to Colombia. Instead, his $2,800 travel tab is being covered by the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., whose funding is split between public sources, including the city, and the private sector.
In Barranquilla, with a population of about 2 million, the delegation's visit was front-page news, and officials said the mayor of that city wants to lead a similar delegation on a trip to the Tampa Bay area in May.
Barranquilla has about $1 billion worth of infrastructure projects — loop roads, mixed-use developments and port expansions — in the pipeline, so economic development officials here plan to schedule introduction and training sessions for Tampa Bay area firms interested in bidding on the work.
"They need contractors. They need design and engineering firms and dredging companies," Economic Development Corp. president and CEO Rick Homans said.