Virginia Zimmermann
Senior Communications Manager
Office 941-721-2323
Cell 941-932-1006

PALMETTO, Florida – Port Manatee’s commercial ties with El Salvador are getting a boost through collaboration with leaders of the Salvadoran American Chamber of Commerce of Florida and the Hispanic Commerce Coalition.

Mutual exploration of business opportunities got a jump start Thursday [Aug. 16] with presentations at the Manatee County Port Authority’s meeting and a tour of the Central Florida Gulf Coast port’s facilities, including the International Trade Hub at Port Manatee.

“We see many opportunities, including for export to Port Manatee of manufactured goods, including towels and other fabric items, as well as various produce, coffee and medicines,” said Connie C. Palomo Flores, executive director of the Doral, Florida-based Salvadoran American Chamber of Commerce of Florida. “We’re genuinely impressed with what we have seen and heard at Port Manatee and look forward to soon hosting Port Manatee leadership in El Salvador.”

Jose Matto, president and chairman of the Hispanic Commerce Coalition, another member of the delegation visiting Port Manatee from South Florida, commented, “It’s always exciting to develop enhanced commercial relationships, and we are particularly enthused about potential for trade between El Salvador and Port Manatee, which offers an ideal gateway to the fast-growing Central Florida market.”

The Salvadoran visit to Port Manatee is the most recent of several by Latin American commercial leaders, with trade officials from Chile, Guatemala, Colombia, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic among those calling earlier this year. The International Trade Hub at Port Manatee has been a magnet for such activity since opening in 2014.

“While our trade ties with El Salvador have to date been limited, we see a wealth of opportunity,” said Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee’s executive director. “We look forward to working with Salvadoran trade officials in pursuit of mutually beneficial business ties.”

The smallest and most densely populated of Central American countries, El Salvador is a signatory to multiple trade pacts, including the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA-DR. The United States is El Salvador’s leading trade partner for both exports and imports.

Vanessa Baugh, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority, said, “By expanding trade with El Salvador and other countries throughout Latin America and beyond, Port Manatee looks to further augment its role as a vital economic engine for greater Manatee County.”

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.

Gathered to discuss trade opportunities are, from left: Betsy Benac, member, Manatee County Port Authority; Robin DiSabatino, member, Manatee County Port Authority; Priscilla Whisenant Trace, first vice chairwoman, Manatee County Port Authority; Vanessa Baugh, chairwoman, Manatee County Port Authority; Stephen R. Jonsson, third vice chairman, Manatee County Port Authority; Connie C. Palomo Flores, executive director, Salvadoran American Chamber of Commerce of Florida; Jose Matto, president and chairman, Hispanic Chamber Coalition; Carol Whitmore, member, Manatee County Port Authority; Carlos Buqueras, executive director, Port Manatee; and Charles B. Smith, second vice chairman, Manatee County Port Authority.