Author: Mark A. Trowbridge, President & CEO, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce
Having just returned from the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s first-ever mission trip to Ireland and the UK, I am both energized and optimistic about what lies ahead for Florida’s local chambers of commerce and fellow delegates. These outbound mission trips are incredible opportunities to build business, and in our case, make vital connections with potential partners and collaborators.
With a diverse cross-section of business leaders— led by the Florida Chamber’s International Chair and past Chairman of the Florida Chamber Eric Silagy, CEO of Florida Power and Light— the Florida Chamber’s Business Development and Trade Mission proved to be a terrific chance to form bonds that I am confident will pay dividends far beyond this one-week mission. Education policy leaders, university officials, tourism professionals, banking executives, aviation leaders, small business owners, as well as the Coral Gables Chamber, gathered to create a resource team dedicated to selling Florida as the best place for business. Whether in Ireland or the UK, the energy was palpable and our team was on hand to answer the simple question: Why Florida?
The Florida Chamber Foundation’s The Florida Scorecard, tells us that more than 348,800 Floridians are employed by foreign companies, and a good majority are employed by companies in both Ireland and the UK. With booming economies and tech scenes that are getting noticed globally for companies like Capstone and Cloudbanter, now is the right time to talk about foreign direct investment in Florida.
While in Limerick, two Irish companies committed to opening in Jacksonville, Florida and our own Bank of America announced its intention to move its E.U. headquarters to Dublin. We also met with a Dublin-based scale-up, Pointy, who is working with local retailers to share their product inventories online to assist consumers in easier product procurement. Now, that is purchasing power! They are interested in the US and we’ve committed to connecting further and making introductions to a great Florida company—Publix Supermarkets.
Before heading to London, we ended our stay in Ireland by hosting a reception with the new Mayor of Dublin, Lord Mayor Nial Ring (now, that’s a great title!). He proved to be a great ambassador for this amazing city and was eager to meet our delegation to share the state of the business climate in Dublin and in Ireland.
In London, the conversation shifted to talks of Brexit, which consumed the airwaves on every “telly” and became the focus of many meetings. Clearly, uncertainty has caused some concern for the local governing officials, but business was brisk in the capital city. The Coral Gables Chamber has always enjoyed a special relationship with our partners in the UK, but this takes on an even more significant meaning in an era of growth and opportunity.
Florida remains of great interest to companies in the UK, and in meeting with London and Partners, an economic development agency with offices in NY, Chicago, LA and San Francisco, we made the strong pitch for investments in Florida—specifically, Miami.
Meeting with companies who have an interest in Florida can be both exhilarating and daunting. Whether it be through one on one meetings, group briefings, or even in social settings like the reception we co-hosted with VISIT Florida, Enterprise Florida and Leadership Florida at The Shard, you must be ready to make your “pitch” at any moment. Florida’s future is always on our minds and this mission helped us hone in.
With the Tower of London and Tower Bridge as a backdrop, we were reminded of not only the history of our two great economies, but the inter-dependence of our common goals that are focused and poised for growth.
With many thanks to the Florida Chamber, our organization stands at the ready to welcome these new companies to Florida and we will roll-out the red carpet as a local chamber to help them invest their capital, hire our amazing talent and make Florida their forever home.
Mark A. Trowbridge, President & CEO, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce