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  • 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.



  • 16 Jun 2015 9:57 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    TBOWIT Member, Laurel Evans, of XPO Logistics tells us a bit about herself.


    • How long have you been a member of TBOWIT?      
         A little more than 2 years
    • What drew you to the club and/or why do you stay?
          I was drawn by other members (friends/colleagues), networking and information
    • What does your job involve? What do you do?
           I provide logistics solutions specific for my clients' needs to move and warehouse their goods within the US and Worldwide.
    • Where did you grow up?
           Hornell, New York
    • Give us one fun fact that we might not know about you
           One of my passions is to train and ride horses to compete in dressage/eventing.
    • Who inspires you?
             Entrepreneurs and positive people
    • What’s one piece of advice for women entering international business or work in general?
             Always network, be open minded, continue to learn in order to enhance/advance yourself and enjoy life every day. Be passionate about your career!



  • 18 May 2015 11:55 AM | Selma Canas (Administrator)
    Brazil is Florida’s No. 1 trade partner when it comes to exports. But getting in the door isn’t easy. Cutting through red tape and tariffs requires a sharp tool...

    Read article: http://tbo.com/news/business/making-the-connection-20150517/

  • 11 May 2015 3:48 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

     One thing to love about TBOWIT is the networking!
    Even better going to an event - seeing your fellow TBOWIT members and being introduced to the person that they are talking to and repeat. Such was the case at this past 2015 International Town Hall held May 8th presented by the Tampa Bay Export Alliance. 


    TBOWIT members in attendance included

    Selma Canas, Christyna Doege, Elizabeth Krekel,
    Deborah Wilkinson, Tania Romero, Shanida DeGracia,
     Jose Salas-Vernis, Paula Strahm, Sueli Bonaparte,
    Gary Leskun, Michelle Stephenson,
    Eileen Rodriguez
    (panel participant), Lorrie Belovich (principal event planner)




  • 29 Apr 2015 4:08 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    It doesn't get much better than an April evening in South Tampa on a rooftop bar with good food, concoctions, and company! The weather and the atmosphere were perfect. There was definitely a good buzz. See you at the next one!




  • 23 Feb 2015 11:12 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    TBOWIT members like to stay abreast of current and international events. Here are two such members, Selma Canas and Laurel Evans, at the 2015 State of the Port address this past January 2015.

     Nearly 300 attendees heard from President and CEO of Port Tampa Bay, Paul Anderson, and Chief Commercial Officer, Raul Alfonso, regarding the strength of Port Tampa Bay's imports & exports and how Port Tampa Bay is gearing up for the future.


  • 08 Jan 2015 3:31 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Three TBOWIT members traveled in a group of about 40 business and government leaders to Chile as part of an economic mission this past December 2014. According to all accounts the trip was a success. Congratulations to our TBOWIT members, Selma Canas, Eileen Rodriguez, and Lorrie Belovich for the successful culmination of all their hard work! How lucky for us that these savvy, international women are part of our group, TBOWIT.




    "About 14 Tampa Bay companies went on the trip with economic development leaders and government officials to introduce the country to the Bay area's economic diversity. The 14 companies conducted more than 100 meetings with prospective customers, according to the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., and several of them signed deals and sold products while on the trip.

      The group came home with more than 30 solid sales leads, according to EDC CEO Rick Homans. An estimated $9 million in expected export sales were made on the trip, according to the EDC" - Chris Wilkerson - Editor Tampa Bay Business Journal quoted via the Tampa EDC website



  • 07 Nov 2014 10:59 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    TBOWIT's 2013 International Person of the Year, Maria Crummett was in town this early November 2014 leading a delegation of Fulbright Scholars. TBOWIT Secretary, Christyna Doege, was able to reconnect with Maria as the group toured Port Tampa Bay.  Even though this was a quick working visit for Maria, hopefully, she can continue to come back to Tampa. TBOWIT wishes Maria all the success in her position as Deputy VP, Scholar Exchanges, and Executive Director, CIES at the Institute of International Education in DC.


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