Participants in the July 27 meeting include, from left, Marina Besadalombana, consultant, International Trade Hub at Port Manatee, Tom James, director of networking and partner services, Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP); Carlos Buqueras, executive director, Port Manatee; Ryan Lilly, vice president of business creation, CEP; Louisa Barton, assistant director of business attraction and director of equine engagement, CEP and Ivan Mutis, coordinator, International Trade Hub at Port Manatee.
Senior Communications Manager, Port Manatee
Vice President of Business Creation
Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership
Phone 352-629-8051, ext. 125
PALMETTO, Florida – Port Manatee and Ocala business leaders are exploring commercial ties to bridge the 120 miles between the Central Florida Gulf Coast seaport and businesses of the Heart of Florida region.
The interest was sparked by a recent trip to Ocala by consultants from the International Trade Hub at Port Manatee and further fueled by a port visit Thursday [July 27], which included a tour of facilities at the port and trade hub.
“We were so pleased to have this tour and introductory visit with the team at Port Manatee,” said Ryan Lilly, vice president of business creation at the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership. “While we knew about the port, we learned today just how major of a regional trade asset it has become, and also how valuable it is to cities and counties across Florida – including our own. “In fact,” Lilly continued, “we have already identified several companies trading at the port which we plan on linking to businesses in Ocala. We are also encouraging businesses in our area to pursue trade opportunities at Port Manatee. Even if a local company is unsure of where to begin with importing or exporting, the team at Port Manatee is generously willing to help and well-equipped to do so.”
Port Manatee officials are equally enthusiastic.
“Those of us at Port Manatee, including the International Trade Hub at Port Manatee, are delighted to have had the opportunity to host the Ocala delegation, and we look forward to working together in advancing mutually beneficial relationships,” said Vanessa Baugh, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority. “We are impressed with what we heard from the Ocala officials regarding the business community and economic development efforts taking place less than two hours to our north and stand ready to develop closer ties for years to come.”
Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee’s executive director, commented, “The trade hub is focused on international trade and has created an environment for Florida counties looking for support. When prospective clients need advice in global supply chain solutions, the trade hub is available to provide its market expertise.”
Since opening in 2014, the International Trade Hub at Port Manatee has played a vital role in expanding global connections for the port and Manatee County businesses. In recent months, the hub has been visited by business leaders from throughout Florida, as well as trade officials from Guatemala, Colombia, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
Located “Where Tampa Bay Meets the Gulf of Mexico,” Port Manatee is the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal, with 10 40-foot-draft berths serving container, bulk, breakbulk, heavylift, project and general cargo customers. The port generates more than $2.3 billion in annual economic impact for the local community, while supporting more than 24,000 jobs, without levying ad-valorem taxes.
The Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership was created to be a one-stop hub for the community’s business attraction, creation and retention efforts. The CEP’s mission is to be the catalyst for a prosperous community. Its Moving Forward-Phase II plan seeks to impact the creation of 4,500 new jobs with wages 15 percent above the county average and resulting in a capital investment of $400 million by 2021.