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Buckhorn leading trade mission to Brazil

TAMPA — Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will lead a trade mission to Brazil next week in hopes of bringing business to local companies from the Soutn American country.

The 47-person delegation includes representatives from a number of local businesses, including fertilizer giant Mosaic Inc. and Omni Controls Inc., which distributes measuring devices.

The trade mission leaves for Sao Paulo on Sunday and returns Oct. 25. It will build on a decade-long relationship between Florida and Brazil that is rooted in tourism, said Rick Homans, president of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.

“They are still on a very solid growth trajectory, and there is high demand there for our products and services,” Homans said.

Buckhorn has spoken repeatedly about his desire to build Tampa’s links to Latin America based largely on its Spanish and Cuban roots.

“We speak a common language,” he said Tuesday.

In December, Buckhorn led a similar trade delegation to Barranquilla, Tampa’s sister city in Colombia, during a state-sponsored mission to that country.

“We want to plant Tampa’s flag with these natural trading partners,” Buckhorn said Tuesday.

Brazil will be the mayor’s third trade mission in the past 12 months and the fifth since he took office in 2011. He joined a delegation to Switzerland and Germany this spring. In his first year, he went on missions to Israel and Panama.

For local business owners, the trip to Brazil is a chance to build new connections and renew old ones.

With the World Cup and 2016 Olympics on the horizon, Brazil will be filled with construction — and that means opportunities to sell Omni Control’s products, said Robert Lamb, president of the Tampa Palms company.

“We do a little bit of business down there,” Lamb said. “It’s a market that’s tough to get into because of the tariffs.”

The $60,000 trip is sponsored in part by Mosaic, which has port, production and warehousing operations in Brazil. Mosaic’s phosphate is among the top 10 products Florida exports to Brazil, said Martha Monfried, vice president for public affairs in Mosaic’s phosphate division.

For Mosaic, the trip will be a chance to show what it does beyond the Tampa area and to build upon existing links to Brazil.

“We have long-term trade relations there that we want to strengthen,” Monfried said.

The addition of Panama-based Copa Airlines to Tampa International Airport will help expand the Tampa area’s economic ties to Brazil and other Latin American companies, Homans said.

While the delegation is in Brazil, it will meet with Copa officials during a two-day side trip to the southeastern city of Porto Alegre. Also, Buckhorn will sign a sister-city agreement with Porto Alegre Mayor Jose Fortunati that will help build economic ties between the city of 1.5 million and Tampa, Homans said.

“This is the kind of boots-on-the-ground work we all have to do to develop the traffic on the planes coming in and out of Tampa,” Homans said.

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Twitter: @kwiatrowskiTBO

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