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City pitches for British trade office

Taxpayers may help subsidize office space to entice the British government to open a trade office here, city officials said Wednesday.

The city has offered to either give the British government free office space or help pay for office space if they open a consular office in Tampa, said Margarita Gonzalez, a liaison with the Office of International Affairs.

Tampa and Orlando are both wooing the British, said Mayor Pam Iorio, who hopes that the city wins the competition.

A consular office would employ as many as 25 local residents, but the real economic impact would come from trade ties with the United Kingdom.

"It transfers to foreign investment," Gonzalez said of the office. "You have a direct link to that country and to any economic development."

The British government, which already has offices in Orlando and Miami, is looking to expand its activities in Florida, said Stephen Collier, acting consul general in Atlanta for the British government.

"Florida is an important region for us," Collier said. "Tampa is on the map."

British businesses are some of the biggest investors in Florida, and American companies are also the largest investors in the United Kingdom, he said.

The office would primarily handle trade and economic development issues, Collier said. It would not deal with travel and immigration issues, which is handled in Orlando.

About 400,000 visitors from the United Kingdom travel to the Tampa Bay area every year, according to the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau. About 12,800 British subjects live in the Tampa Bay area as well, according to the 2000 census.

Collier declined to say how soon the British government would make a decision on opening a new office.

Brad Swanson, vice president of public affairs at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, declined to comment.

_ Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Staff writer David Karp can be reached at 226-3376 or karpsptimes.com.

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