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Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Puerto Rico Trade Touted At Hartford, Conn., Expo

By Stacy Wong, The Hartford Courant, Conn.

27 August 2004
Copyright © 2004 KRTBN Knight Ridder Tribune Business News. All rights reserved. 

Aug. 27--Tony Perez's food company in Puerto Rico sells milk, cheese, mangoes and tamarind products to customers in Florida, New York, California and other states.

But he has yet to crack the Connecticut market.

So on Thursday he participated with 11 other companies in a Puerto Rican business trade exposition at Hartford's Crowne Plaza Hotel.

The event brought together businesspeople from Connecticut and Puerto Rico hoping to stimulate commerce in both locations.

"This is the first one, and it's not going to be the last," said Odalie David, spokeswoman for the Puerto Rico Trade Company, one of the event's sponsors.

The event is a follow-up to Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez's visit to Puerto Rico in March 2003, and is part of his larger strategy of pitching the city as the business hub for Caribbean ethnic communities around the state.

"We could become a very powerful market. ... This is a strategy to market a strength within Hartford that I don't think people have tapped into," Perez said.

The expo also marked the start of a new Hartford chapter of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, which already has chapters in other states.

Most of the companies at the expo were selling Puerto Rican food items. But among the business mix was a Spanish-language media company, a metal parts manufacturer and a building services firm, all looking to establish a market foothold in Connecticut.

While most of the companies do not compete directly with Connecticut companies, officials said they would not hesitate to bring in those whose businesses do overlap.

"Competition is good," said Mark K. McGovern, acting director of the Hartford Economic Development Commission.

At his booth in the hotel meeting room, Tony Perez (no relation to the mayor) said he met with a couple of potential distributors, including some who supply supermarkets.

He is especially keen to find someone who will carry his line of Indulac brand vacuum-packed milk and cheeses, which come with bilingual labels in English and Spanish.

"There's potential, a great potential," he said.

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