TAMPA — The pope went to Brazil, the mayor plans to go, and economic development officials say Tampa Bay area business leaders should think about a trip there, too.
So the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. is organizing a trade mission in October to São Paulo, the Southern Hemisphere's largest city with a metro area population of 19 million.
Tampa officials think export opportunities will blossom as Brazil spends an estimated $470 billion on infrastructure ahead of next year's FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The world's fifth largest country, Brazil is Florida's leading export market, accounting for $15.8 billion in sales last year.
But the country's growing affluence, strong currency, lack of manufacturing and need to update its infrastructure should fuel the demand for American goods and services, according to EDC president Rick Homans.
The Oct. 20-23 trip will be led by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who says more trade with Brazil could be an "economic driver for our region."
"We have a tremendous opportunity to leverage the state's existing ties and expand our relationship with this emerging economic power," Buckhorn said in a statement released by the EDC.
Since December, Buckhorn has led EDC delegations on similar missions to Germany, Switzerland and Colombia. As on those trips, the EDC will cover the estimated $3,300 cost of the mayor's travel to Brazil.
The São Paulo mission will include meetings with government officials and business organizations, a reception at the residence of the U.S. Consul General and one-on-one matchmaking sessions. Ten companies will be able to take part in the matchmaking exercise, and applications are being taken on a first-come, first-served basis.
The EDC is looking for companies interested in doing business with Brazil from a wide range of industries: aerospace, agriculture, aviation, construction and engineering, cosmetics, defense, education, electrical power, environmental technologies, information technology, medical equipment, mining, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy telecommunications, transportation and travel.
The EDC says the trip is the latest step in an initiative to align the international outreach efforts of the Port of Tampa, Tampa International Airport, Visit Tampa Bay, the University of South Florida and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
After two years of recruiting, local officials announced July 17 that Copa Airlines will begin Tampa-to-Panama City flights four times a week, giving the bay area its first route to a major Latin American hub.