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THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
RED Could Bring County Lots Of Green
By Mark Pino
January 23, 2004
RED -- as in real economic development -- arrived this week.
The county's economic development department unveiled the new strategy Wednesday at the kickoff of the Central Florida Hispanic Business Exchange.
RED attracts industries that are a good fit, helps raise the area's standard of living, encourages investment and promotes education, according to the county.
Sounds good, eh? It's a perfect tie-in to the business exchange with Puerto Rican companies that wraps up today at Osceola Heritage Park.
A wide range of companies -- about 23 -- were looking to connect Thursday. Marie's Growers of Aibonito had striking ornamental plants that caught the eye, while others had mouthwatering food products. There were other traditional businesses, along with some that could help expand the mind such as the University del Turado and book publisher Editorial Cultural.
Francisco Vazquez, the president of the publishing company, was drawn to the event from San Juan because of the potential here for the 500 or so Spanish titles his company offers. They range from storybooks for young children to more scholarly works for high school and college students. Book sellers and school districts are potential customers, and like others, Vazquez was meeting with locals in hopes of making a match.
"We began looking for different markets two to three years ago," Vazquez said of the company started by his father about 60 years ago. "Each market has different characteristics. The market is in the state from South Florida to Central Florida. It's here, not in Central or South America."
Maria Grulich, the county's economic development director, is working on plans for local leaders to return to the island to continue nurturing the bonds planted last year and this week.
More one-on-one meetings are scheduled today, along with a dominoes game for socializing and networking.
Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist, who gets my nod as the savviest state politician, speaks at noon. State Rep. John Quiñones of Kissimmee, who was part of the trip to Puerto Rico last year, wraps up the event at 3 p.m. with a meeting of the House Subcommittee on Workforce & Economic Development. The main topic will involve the trade relationship between Florida and Puerto Rico. Attending the exchange is PromoExport, the island agency that helps advance external trade.
The point of bringing businesses here is twofold. There are businesses here that could tap into products from the commonwealth. Competitive pricing or new products can help keep Osceola's economy humming by preserving or creating new jobs.
And there are companies that might need to establish a base here to serve the growing Hispanic market in Central Florida. Puerto Ricans dominate the sector, and a company that provides familiar products might profit from a distribution center that would create more jobs and boost the entire Osceola economy.
The exchange is the first chance to leverage Osceola County as a Hispanic Business Sector, something that could open the doors to real economic development. Let's hope that RED brings in the green.