2015 International Town Hall Looks Beyond the Bay to International Business Opportunities


May 21, 2015



On Friday, May 8, more than 300 business professionals and community leaders gathered at the Hilton Carillon in St. Petersburg, Fla. for the 2015 International Town Hall. Presented by the Tampa Bay Export Alliance, a partnership between the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation and Pinellas County Economic Development, the half-day event was designed to increase Tampa Bay’s understanding of how to engage in international trade.
 
The morning kicked off with a keynote presentation by Don Bunkenburg, Managing Director of Corporate Sales and Regions, North America of Lufthansa, which will start nonstop flights from Tampa to Frankfurt, Germany in September.
 
The “International A-Team” then took the stage to update attendees on international efforts across the region and how collaboration has changed economic development efforts lately. The panel, moderated by Chris Wilkerson of the Tampa Bay Business Journal, featured Paul Anderson, President and CEO of Port Tampa Bay; Santiago Corrada, President and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay; David Downing, Executive Director of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater; Rick Homans, President and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough EDC; Joe Lopano, CEO of Tampa International Airport; and Mike Meidel, Director of Pinellas County Economic Development.
 
“We are experiencing something that only comes along once in a lifetime,” Anderson said of the collaboration going on between organizations on both sides of the bay.
 
Trade mission “veterans” offered firsthand accounts of what it’s like to do business in a foreign country in the “Trade Behind the Scenes” panel. Featuring representatives from Enterprise Florida, Ex-Im Bank, America’s SBDC Florida, and U.S. Commercial Service, attendees learned about what resources are available for them to get involved in international business.
 
Closing out the day, an expert panel offered an open and candid dialogue about the realities of doing business in Cuba from both the public and private sector perspectives.
 
This year’s International Town Hall also featured a special engagement with a delegation visiting from Panama. During the Doing Business with Panama luncheon, His Excellency, Mr. Jesus Sierra, the Minister of Tourism, Robert S. John, the President of the American Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Panama, as well as many others highlighted all their beautiful country has to offer.
 
Always an exciting start to World Trade Month, both sides of the bay are already looking forward to the 2016 International Town Hall.

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