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Governor promotes aviation in Florida

Gov. Jeb Bush promoted Florida's aviation and technology industries Monday at Europe's second biggest air show, joining more than 200 state business leaders who hope to bring home millions of dollars in sales contracts.

The governor arrived Saturday to lead the delegation on his first European trade mission since being elected in 1998.

"My role is to generate high-wage jobs, through trade or through training and education," Bush said Monday.

Two years ago, Florida aviation and technology businesses signed more than $30-million in sales contracts at the Farnborough International Air Show, a biannual trade show held southwest of London.

Florida business leaders said they hoped potential European clients will see beyond the beaches and golf resorts that made the state a top destination for last year's 1.3-million British tourists.

"Florida is a leading state in information technology and one of the top five most Internet connected states," said Michael Langley, a consultant for Enterprise Florida, the state economic development council.

The state has a technology infrastructure capable of supporting businesses in the space and defense industries, as well as biotechnology, Langley said.

Damian O'Connor, president of International Talent LLC, said his company will open its first U.S. office in Fort Lauderdale next month.

Florida was a natural hub for the London-based head hunting firm because of the state's technology-friendly atmosphere, he said.

Walt Disney World and other Central Florida theme parks also will provide opportunities for International Talent's 200,000 actors and models in the company's talent database, O'Connor said.

Members of the Florida delegation said the dollar's recent slide against the Euro and the British pound may help attract investors to the state.

"They see the U.S. as a good buy right now, and increased investment is good for economic development," Langley said.

Foreign direct investment in Florida made up about 8 percent of the gross state product last year, according to Manuel Mencia of Enterprise Florida Inc.,

The United Kingdom is the fourth largest investor in Florida. British companies invested more than $37-billion dollars in the state last year.

Bush, who faces re-election in November, has lead trade missions in the past four years to Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Chile and Argentina.

Last summer's trip to Chile and Argentina generated more than $50-million in sales contracts, and the state has received more than $350-million in new business since Bush's first trade mission two years ago, state officials said.