Sister Cities Trade Mission Sparks Global Business Initiatives

From the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, the cities of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Mataro, Spain began their sister city relationship based on the mutual interest of developing and expanding the Fort Lauderdale Marine Industries and Mataro Marina. Fort Lauderdale is known for their quality of repair work and servicing on yachts in their marina. Delegates from Mataro visited Fort Lauderdale to meet with local business owners to explore opportunities to develop the Port of Mataro as a repair and retrofit port which would service yachts traveling through the Mediterranean.

Mataro’s interest is to create business relationships and investment collaborations with Fort Lauderdale business owners and develop a workforce of skilled tradespeople to service the yachts traveling each year through the Mediterranean to the Riviera. To further promote the marine industry and economic activity in Fort Lauderdale and Mataro, Marianne Winfield, Executive Director of Greater Fort Lauderdale Sister Cities International (GFLSCI), along with seven other representatives from the Florida area went on a Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Trade Mission to Spain in November 2014. 

The delegation was officially received by the Minister of Industry, Commerce, and Tourism of Catalonia and the U.S. Consul General in Barcelona. Representatives from Fort Lauderdale and other cities in Florida presented their companies and organizations during four days of FDI events. Representatives also enjoyed a boat tour of Barcelona’s port facilities, four city tours in Barcelona and Mataro, and participated in a “Companies Matchmaking” event, where participants made new business connections. 

The trade mission was a great success, with overall outcomes including discussions to develop the marine industry with South Florida companies that will create strong economic development relationships and to further those relationships into business ties. Barcelona Cluster Nautica and Marine Industries in South Florida are in discussions with their individual companies to work to develop business relationships between cities. 

The recognition of Fort Lauderdale’s international marine industry has helped spur other industry leaders and GFLSCI’s sister cities to take an interest in investing in their city’s potential. Some prospective collaborations include projects in the industries of information technology with Rimini, Italy; climate change and the environment with Gold Coast, Australia; educational programs with Mataro Technocampus and Broward College; soccer programs with Belo Horizonte, Suzano, and São Sebastião, Brazil;and sister school programs with Panama City, Panama.

In early 2015, Broward College in Fort Lauderdale teamed up with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers Football Club and three Brazilian investors including the world renowned soccer legend Ronaldo Luís Nazário, to work with sports related start ups at Broward College’s Innovation Hub. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers leadership is looking to invest in creating a world class soccer stadium in the Fort Lauderdale and their partnerships will include sports related business such as stadium sustainability, athletics through applied bio metric science, media delivery, fan engagement, and venue experience. 

When it comes to connecting with sister cities for economic development projects, it’s essential to interact with counterparts on all levels. Ms. Winfield noted, “It’s important to meet in person, you need the strength of both sides to reach your goals.” She and GFLSCI hope to expand business collaboration to each of their sister cities in a variety of sectors. To learn more about the work of GFLSCI please email [email protected].