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South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Broward Cities Seek Puerto Rico Link

By Tanya Weinberg and Doreen Hemlock

January 31, 2002
Copyright © 2002
South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

The mayor of Hollywood has touted her city in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and even France. Soon Mara Giulianti will have the chance to do the same in Puerto Rico, the ancestral home of Hollywood's and Broward County's largest Hispanic group.

Last November, Spirit Airlines began competing with American Airlines to offer direct service between Fort Lauderdale and Puerto Rico.

With Spirit providing promotional flights, two Broward County chambers of commerce are taking the opportunity to strengthen ties with the island commonwealth, which already outranks most Latin American countries in trade with the mainland United States.

From Feb. 7 to 9, the mayors of Hollywood and Pembroke Pines and 18 other guests will travel on the Broward Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce's "Business, Government and Tourism trip." It is the second such trip the chamber has organized in four months.

"The whole idea is to open bridges and establish connections," said Puerto Rican Chamber President Frank Nieves.

Florida already shares a multibillion-dollar trade yearly with Puerto Rico. Dozens of Florida companies operate on the Caribbean island, including Miami-based Burger King. And numerous Puerto Rican companies operate in the state, including Banco Popular, which has offices in Miami and Orlando.

"Here in Broward County, I think we have to take a more active position on this," Nieves said.

Broward's Latin Chamber of Commerce also intends to use Spirit's promotional generosity to send its own delegation to the commonwealth of 4 million people.

That trip, tentatively planned for March, would focus on trade as well as seeking bilingual recruits for the Broward Sheriff's Office and possibly the Broward School Board.

New York City already recruits Spanish-speaking teachers from Puerto Rico.

As U.S. citizens, with no need for a visa, Puerto Ricans often visit and shop in South Florida, already home to more than 160,000 Puerto Ricans, according to the 2000 Census.

"Puerto Rico's a really good market for us," said Edgar Tapia, international sales coordinator for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. He will join the chamber delegation to Puerto Rico next month.

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