TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn and a delegation of business recruiters leave late Friday for four days of meetings with companies in Germany and Switzerland.
"If we are truly going to be an international destination, then we've got to go get the business," Buckhorn said. "We've got to make sure that we plant Tampa's flag around the globe in areas where we have strategic advantages, where we have existing relationships, where we have companies that are interested in establishing a presence here."
The delegation includes representatives of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. (EDC), Tampa International Airport, including chief executive officer Joe Lopano, Tampa Bay & Co., Hillsborough County's tourism development agency, and Norma Henning, the Naples-based honorary consul to the Federal Republic of Germany.
In Munich, Nuremberg and Frankfurt, the group is scheduled to meet with companies that make tools and specialty devices, pharmaceutical equipment, computer hardware, software and applications, and thermal engineering systems, as well as an aerospace and defense technology firm and an Internet service provider.
The EDC spent three months working with an Enterprise Florida staffer based in Germany to schedule appointments with the companies. All are interested in expanding their manufacturing, distribution or sales in the United States. Two have a particular interest in Florida. Another two already have subsidiaries in the Tampa Bay area.
"It's a very targeted group and a very targeted mission," EDC president and CEO Rick Homans said Wednesday. "We want these visits to be with companies that are active prospects that are about to consider or are considering right now an expansion of their operations into Florida."
The EDC will use privately raised funds to cover Buckhorn's travel expenses, which are estimated at $3,790.
Most of the delegation's meetings are in Germany, but it is flying in and out of Zurich on Edelweiss Air, which began offering direct Tampa-to-Zurich flights last May. The group's agenda includes discussions aimed at boosting travel from Germany to Tampa via Edelweiss.
"We want to go and reinforce that relationship," Buckhorn said.
Fortunately, Homans said the group will be talking to people who already know and "have a great affinity for Florida ... so we're starting at a good point."