MANATEE -- The International Trade HUB at Port Manatee already hosts 15 companies, with more expected to join soon, an international business consultant told the Port Authority Thursday.
While the HUB began in 2014 with companies from Spain, they are now working with companies in other countries such as Colombia, Chile and the Dominican Republic.
"We are trying to catch everyone who wants to use this place as an intermarket to the U.S.," said Ivan Mutis, CEO with the port-based consultant GM&L.
The HUB assists international companies in "advancing production, distribution and other business activities, including innovative global supply chain solutions," according to a company statement. Some of the companies in the HUB have set up logistics warehouses or facilities for manufacturing, while others have a virtual presence.
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The HUB will host a program focusing on Southwestern Europe and Colombia next week. Titled "Your GATEWAY to International Markets," the program begins at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Intermodal Building at Port Manatee, 1905 Intermodal Circle, Palmetto, and is open to the public.
"What a great opportunity this is for Manatee County and Port Manatee," said Karen Stewart, the county's economic development manager. "Having this kind of relationship with foreign companies is just really beneficial. ...Having these companies come back and forth to our community and really build that relationship, that is so important for establishing in a place and then having the International Trade HUB here, a place where businesses can land quickly."
Port Manatee is not in companies' "natural path of development" when they land in Miami International Airport, said Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee executive director.
"Until SRQ gets a few international flights, we have to go get them literally out of the plane in Miami and bring them here," he said. "I think once they are here it's really very, very encouraging they love it. ...North America starts about here."
Companies located in the HUB have a Palmetto address on business cards and stationary, Buqueras said.
"They are linked with Manatee County," he said.
Port Authority Chairwoman Betsy Benac thanked Mutis for "acting as the buffer and being that welcoming presence for them."
"I do think it is important to have that opportunity for relationship-building," she said.
Also on Thursday, the Port Authority:
Approved a change order for a berth reconstruction at Port Manatee, which equates to sales tax cost savings of $87,692.45. Last December, the Port Authority awarded a $9.1 million contract for berth reconstruction to Orion Marine Construction Inc.
Awarded a $807,769.50 contract to Pepper Contracting Services Inc. for Port Manatee's South Access Modification Project, which will make improvements to the South Gate entrance.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.