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Members in the News

  • 24 Oct 2016 5:30 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Sabina Zunguze, TBOWIT board member is launching GroYourBiz Florida in the Tampa Bay area on October 24,2016. 

    GroYourBiz is an international organization that is  devoted to fostering and supporting women entrepreneurs and business owners through peer-to-peer advisory groups. Sabina will soon be launching more boards around Florida. GroYourBiz is a partner with OWIT International. 

    If you are interested in coming to this FREE event, please RSVP to szunguze@fl.groyourbiz.com

    Our Keynote will be the Canadian Consul General Susan Harper and Carolyn Booth, Executive Vice President and Head of Business Banking at BMO Harris Bank

    Click Here for Full Invite

  • 17 Jun 2016 9:10 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

     On June 15 2016, the Tampa Bay metro region announced that it has been selected to join a small group of city-regions that will create new strategies to attract and leverage foreign direct investment through the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase. The effort builds on the Tampa Bay Export Alliance, the regional export plan created here in 2014 in order to take full advantage of international trade and investment as a major opportunity for economic development.


    Chosen by Brookings through a competitive application process, Tampa Bay will join Baltimore, Fresno, Houston, Salt Lake County and St. Louis in developing a foreign direct investment plan. Tampa Bay was evaluated for its readiness, capacity, and commitment to maximize foreign direct investment sources such as greenfield expansions, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, joint ventures, and sovereign wealth funds. 


    “We are very excited to be a part of this Global Cities Initiative FDI cohort,” said J.P. DuBuque, Interim CEO and President of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation. “If we expect to compete in today’s economy, we have to put ourselves at the center of international commerce. The strategies identified in this study will help us get there.”


    Launched in 2012, the Global Cities Initiative helps metropolitan areas grow their economies by strengthening international connections and competitiveness, with a focus on traded industry sectors.  GCI activities include producing data and research to guide decisions, fostering practice and policy innovation, and facilitating a peer-learning network for replication and dissemination.


    “We chose to work with metro areas that proved they are committed to pursuing international economic opportunities and able to think creatively about foreign direct investment as part of a comprehensive economic development strategy,” said Marek Gootman, Brookings fellow and director of strategic partnerships and global initiatives. “We are confident that Tampa Bay is positioned to take greater advantage of foreign direct investment, and can be a national leader in finding more effective approaches to global economic engagement.” 


    Foreign direct investment makes an outsized contribution to regional economic development, not only as a new source of capital. Foreign-owned enterprises tend to pay higher wages, invest more in research and development and worker training, increase exports through access to global networks, drive productivity growth, and transfer innovations. As the world’s largest economy with a stable investment environment, the U.S. has been a top destination for foreign direct investment, yet its share of that investment has fallen. Metropolitan leaders, in partnership with their states, are best equipped to attract and retain foreign direct investment by promoting their areas’ unique specializations and establishing strategic, mutually beneficial relationships.


    “JPMorgan Chase is proud to be a part of the development of Tampa Bay’s FDI plan and to support innovative planning that will contribute to our region’s future economic success,” said Michael L. Dosal, Managing Director North Florida, JPMorgan Chase. “International trade and investment represent a promising pathway for local businesses to grow and, in turn, create jobs and expand our local economy.”


    Tampa Bay will be represented by a team of local leaders including Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Pinellas County Economic Development, Pasco Economic Development Council, Port Tampa Bay, Tampa International Airport and the University of South Florida with additional support from the Tampa Bay Partnership and various other public and private sector entities.


    As a result of this project, Tampa Bay will produce a foreign direct investment market assessment; strategic plan with goals, tactics, and implementation commitments; and a policy memorandum. The work will complement the region’s existing regional export plan to form a complete international trade and investment strategy.


    For more information on the Global Cities Initiative please visit www.brookings.edu/projects/global-cities.aspx orwww.jpmorganchase.com/globalcities 


    The Global Cities Initiative is a joint-project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase designed to help metropolitan leaders advance and grow their regional economies by strengthening international connections and competitiveness, focused on their traded sectors. GCI activities include producing data and research to guide decisions, fostering practice and policy innovations, and facilitating a peer-learning network through replication and dissemination. For more information, seehttp://www.brookings.edu/projects/global-cities.aspx or www.jpmorganchase.com/globalcities.

  • 11 May 2016 2:47 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    It was a pleasure to see TBOWIT member, Mrs. Maria Alejandra Villasmil, at the 2016 International Town Hall. A year ago, Maria had the idea to start her own logistics firm and in 2016 it was a delight to see Maria standing in front of her company table, M&J Trading and Logisticsl. Maria  serves as Chief Executive Officer and President and is responsible for the strategic leadership of the organization to ensure its future relevance, credibility, and viability. With a background in logistics, her company is poised for the future. Congratulations Maria!


      To find out more, please see http://www.tradingandlogistics.com/our-company/ 



  • 11 May 2016 2:23 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Export Alliance for putting on the 2016 International Town Hall this past Friday, May 6, 2016. TBOWIT had an exhibition table and there were quite a few of us in the crowd.

       I did miss getting a picture of member Devon Barnett, Pasco EDC, who was in attendance, but I did grab snapshots of Nancy Crews - Custom Manufacturing, Susie Hoeller - TBOWIT Board Member, Eileen Rodriguez - FL SBDC at USF, Maria Alejandra Villasmil - M&J Trading & Logistics, Deborah Wilkinson - Tampa Bay Protocol, Lorrie Belovich - THEDC.

         Yes - I know that some of the pictures are sideways. It's because the file size is too large for this program to handle. I will re-size them. In the meantime, I'll just say the file sizes are too big because we have A LOT of women power represented!






  • 02 Mar 2016 2:21 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

      TBOWIT Members & Guests were delighted by Alain Cerf, President of Polypack Inc., an international packaging machinery manufacturer with headquarters in Pinellas Park. Polypack and it's accompanying Tampa Bay Automobile Museum were the site of TBOWIT's February Networking event.

       It doesn't get much better than a tour of this solar-powered facility and an in-depth discussion on cars and machinery with Alain, the successful proprietor of this global business and true car aficionado. This was a great venue in which to learn and network!






  • 02 Mar 2016 1:47 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    TBOWIT Board Member, Susie Hoeller, J.D., CITP, was the featured speaker at a recent February World Trade Center Tampa Bay seminar.  The topic was TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We are fortunate to have Susie as a member of TBOWIT as she is a wealth of knowledge on the subject of TPP.


      Susie was able to break down this complex geo-political strategy and trade deal into meaningful segments and talk about Florida's opportunity to grow. Susie specifically mentioned the benefits to exporters, small businesses, supply chains, food safety, and services exporters. She also mentioned TPP's affects on e-commerce & digital freedom, intellectual property creation, environmental protections, first-ever disciplines (to avoid unfair competition), prioritizing of good governance, sustainable development & capacity-building. Susie also dedicated a portion of her presentation on criticisms of TPP including:  no anti-currency manipulation provisions, no climate change provisions, wage level disparities, & etc.      


       In Susie's own words,

    "It is not perfect but there is no doubt that it will create new, higher paying jobs in Florida (nearly 50,000 by 2025 as projected by the Business Roundtable) and enable Tampa Bay businesses, large and small, to pursue success in exporting their goods, services, digital content and other intellectual property."


    For more detailed information, find Susie at the next TBOWIT event. In the meantime, here is a link to a brief summary put out by the Department of Commerce.



    floridaTPPDept of Commerce.pdf



    Office of the U.S. Trade Representative        https://ustr.gov/tpp/

    U.S. Coalition for TPP                                      http://tppcoalition.org

    Business Roundtable                                       http://www.tradebenefitsamerica.org

    U.S. Commerce Department (ITA)                 http://www.trade.gov

  • 07 Jan 2016 11:05 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)


    January 6, 2016
    Dear TBOWIT Members:


    As we start 2016, I wanted to take a few minutes to thank you for your support during 2015.  We had an exciting year, filled with diverse presentations and opportunities for both learning and networking in our “after-hours” events. 

    We kicked off the year with a presentation by Commodore Richard Menhinick, of the Royal Australian Navy, giving us insight into  CENTCOM’s analysis of current global threats and the crisis in the Middle East. 

    We took time during networking “after hours” to  learn about the importance of protecting trademarks and brands when doing business globally and also how to protect ourselves—in our own interactive self defense workshop—and explored some of Tampa’s newest, trendier spots, such as the Edge at the Epicurean Hotel and the Oxford Exchange. 

    In May, we heard from author Holly Thomas about the importance of understanding the psychology behind people’s view of money and finances as we engage with them in business, and then closed the summer months with  an introduction to Uruguay by a  fellow OWIT member and Uruguay expert visiting from the Miami OWIT chapter.   

    The fall brought us an “insider’s” view into the opportunities and challenges in Cuba by Spanish counsel who has been advising European multinationals doing business in Cuba for over 20 years.

    During our Annual  International Business Awards and Scholarship Luncheon in October, we recognized  Jeff Vinik for his incredible support to our community, helping launch Tampa as a true international city, while  featured speaker Steve Griggs,  the Lightning’s CFO, highlighted the important role of professional sports in a city’s growth and  global image.  At this event we were blessed with the ability to give out two scholarships, at both  the undergraduate and  graduate student level, to students pursuing international studies. 

    As the year drew to a close, we had our annual boat tour of Port Tampa Bay, and toasted the holiday season at Aloft with colleagues from TBIBC, FRAMCO and other international groups before stepping back in time and embarking on a Victorian Christmas Stroll at the Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa. 

    Through our link to OWIT National, our members had access to multiple webinars throughout the year on  a variety of topics to enhance our skill sets in the international and business settings. 

    We were extremely fortunate to add some new talent to our Board: Martha L. Arellano, Debbie Fallucca, Susie Hoeller, and Michelle Mauch, as long-serving members stepped off.  We especially want to thank Eileen Rodriguez and Maddy Krasne for their dedication and support of our group for many years.  Sadly, this year we  also lost one of our own—Lisa Burdick Yoder-- who served our chapter indefatigably both on the Board and as our liaison to the OWIT national leadership, even as she battled cancer.  We stand stronger today because of her efforts and devotion to our chapter for over ten years, and have dedicated to her memory our newly-instituted graduate scholarship.  Lisa’s spirit of intellectual curiosity, awareness of international  affairs and global leadership has been a great legacy to our chapter.

    Like many groups, we have had challenges as a chapter, but we have marched on and continued to bring to our members programs that inform them about matters relevant to their global interests, and as a result  have seen our numbers grow this year.  All in all, as your outgoing President, I have much for which to be thankful, the greatest being  the friendships of my fellow Board and TBOWIT members I have come to know over the years.  There is an energy and excitement in our group that assure me our mission will be carried out--to enhance Tampa Bay through trade and international business. 

    This year we already have changes that promise to raise us to new levels.  We look forward to hosting our membership luncheons in Capital Grille—a conveniently-located venue that offers great food as well as a sophisticated meeting space.  Our in-coming President, Martha L. Arellano, is a dynamic woman leader  and respected banking professional who has great plans for our continued growth and program enhancement. Martha will officially assume her role as President at the next membership luncheon meeting on January 28. I look forward to seeing you there.  Finally we have recently added Sabina Zunguze to our Board, who brings with her expertise as an OWIT national officer.  Personally, I can’t wait to see what else 2016 brings!


    Olga Pina
    President / January 2014-2016


  • 16 Dec 2015 1:59 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Even though it was a grey, rainy day, the TBOWIT group had fun this past November 19th on the Bay Spirit as we took a tour of Port Tampa Bay. PTB's Raul Alfonso, CCO, Wade Elliott, VP of Marketing & Business Development, as well as TBOWIT's own Christyna Doege, Marketing Coordinator, led a lively tour of the Port.  Guests were filled in on all of the exciting developments at the port and got to see some vessels working at various terminals. Never one to disappoint, Christyna gave useful insights on all of the passing terminals along the way. Who knew so much was going on at the Port! Guests left full of information and full of good food and beverages.


      Here are two fun pictures. One is of the Carnival Paradise coming down the channel carrying all of those lucky passengers on a cruise. It so happens that Christyna knew someone on board the ship who took the second picture of some of the attendees as the two ships passed each other. Fun!



  • 16 Nov 2015 4:05 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    To me Cuba is a mysterious place. I have heard a lot about the island, but at the same time I do not know much about it. Do you have the same feeling? All that has changed for me after attending the special TBOWIT luncheon with José María Viñals, Partner and Director of International Operations at Lupicinio International Law Firm, Head of Cuban Desk and his presentation Cuba Today: Current U.S. Regulations and how they align against the reality of law and business climate in Cuba

    If you want to know what you can and what you cannot do in Cuba – he is your man! Since Mr. Viñals, has worked with companies doing business in Cuba for 20 years, he has boots on the ground knowledge of what companies face doing business in Cuba.

    Did you know that Cuba imports 98% of their food and even though Cuba is famous for their rum and cigars, they have to import the rum bottles and cigar boxes? For every dollar exported, Cuba imports 3 dollars – a huge problem! For example, they import steel and all farm machinery. Also, they import about 100k barrels of oil per day from Venezuela. On top of that, 43% of the Cuban economy is tourism.

    This is interesting – an investor can own 100% of his/her company in the special economic zone, Mariel.  One catch, is that the Cuban government is trying to rebuild industry so, your business has to be a priority to the government. To encourage growth, a company is tax exempt for the first 8 years and after 8 years, the company pays 15% of profits. In Mariel, a company is tax exempt for the first 10 years and then the company pays 12% of profits.  The client base is pretty stable in that the company derives its approval to exist from the Cuban government and the client is also the Cuban government.  The country has a large, well-educated and qualified workforce.  Cuba is considered to be a secure legal country after enacting a 1996 investment law which tied legal certainty to attracting FDI.  A company is protected from direct and indirect meddling and Cuba is obliged to follow foreign arbitration. Cuba has signed onto 62 international treaties and follows the dictates of arbitration courts in Paris and Stockholm.

    What are the cons? Why are companies afraid of Cuba?
    According to Mr. Viñals, a company cannot just go there and do anything. The business has to be aligned with the priorities established with the Cuban government. If you change your board, the company needs prior approval. To hire an employee, a company has to go to a Cuban agency which selects 3 to 4 candidates. The US sanctions are the biggest hindrance. The sanctions affect investment power as well as technology since your product cannot have or use more than 10% US technology.

    Here is another interesting facet, all of Cuba’s expenses and income are rounded into one global government account. Therefore, another hindrance to doing business in Cuba is the need for the company to have large amounts of solvency. Mr. Viñals gave the following example. There was a Russian company who hadn’t been paid for a while. The company met with Cuban officials who explained that they would be paid, but for the moment money had been diverted to help restore the island after a hurricane and the Russian company would just have to wait. The Russian company was eventually paid.

    Another deterrent is the currency situation. There are two currencies - a local peso and a convertible peso and the country has 5 official exchange rates! It’s rather confusing so imagine if you were the accountant because the government wants each company to show its profits in both currencies! The government also wants a 5 year forecast!

    This is just a small sampling of what Mr. Viñals had to offer in his presentation. There was so much offered. If we could have sat there all afternoon, we would have.

    Mr. Viñals ended by saying the following –

    What can you do in Cuba right now?

    1)      Protect your brands and copyrights – register them with the government
    Do some market research – get to know Cuban values
    3)      Get your foot in the door with some type of business even if it’s not your core business

    4)      Opportunity, Opportunity, Opportunity.



  • 08 Sep 2015 3:37 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    August 2015 Luncheon - Uruguay: More Than Just the Next Big Thing in Wine...Outsourcing, Logistics Hub, and Beyond        

    How much do you know about Uruguay?

    If you were at the August TBOWIT luncheon you know a lot more and you are impressed!

    Theresa Rice, the PR Representative in the U.S. for Uruguay XXI, the country’s investment and export promotion agency spoke about Uruguay to the delight of the TBOWIT audience.

    Did you know that Uruguay produces 13.6 million liters of wine a year? On top of that, Uruguay is the first country in South America with traceability built into their supply chain.  This means that in the case of wine, you can know down to the piece of land where the grape were grown that went into the making of the wine. In the case of beef, you can know the specific cow that gave you that piece of meat that you are eating.  Speaking of which, all cows and lambs in Uruguay are grass fed, the ultimate in organic. Uruguay is the ONLY southern hemisphere country to produce caviar. The sturgeon fish that produce the caviar are farmed in large canals with fresh water flowing naturally. Uruguay is the 7th largest producer of caviar and because of its location in the southern hemisphere, fresh caviar reaches the market at the peak of caviar season. One’s caviar can also be traced to its origin.  Uruguay holds the title to the best olive oil outside of Europe and the 8th worldwide. Uruguay is also the 6th largest rice exporter.

    As far as population, Uruguay has about 3.4 million residents and 2.8 million tourists. One challenge is to extend the tourist season and one means is to build a convention center.  Another challenge is to improve the roads and rails which they are doing by encouraging public-private investment. On that front, last year they had $2.75 billion (US) in FDI. Uruguay is the only country in South America to have a free port and airport.

    Half of Uruguay’s’ energy comes from renewable sources. They have the largest percentage of wind produced energy in the world. On the IT frontier, every child in Uruguay is given a laptop. Uruguay has more fiber optic cable laid to homes than the US and their download speed is faster. In fact, 98% of households have the internet. Plus, there is free wi-fi throughout the country..

    Uruguay is a small country with a stable social and political system.  Public education is free. Uruguay does not compete on costs. Uruguay focuses on value-added services such as financial services, IT. Uruguay is an easy entrance to the Mecrosur, the sub-regional bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

    This is just a small sampling of the information offered at the luncheon. There was also a lively question and answer session after Mrs. Rice’s presentation. Everyone left with a better understanding of Uruguay and all it has to offer.

    Going back to wine, Mrs. Rice was brought a bottle of wine to be raffled off and the lucky winner was Selma Canas.



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