by Joao Bicalho
Brazil is famous for soccer, carnival, beautiful women, research and development of bio-fuel, the statue of Christ The Redeemer, and bossa nova; but that’s not all. Locally, Brazil is also famous for being the number one country in volume of business with the Jacksonville Port Authority and they are looking to expand.
The Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce recently hosted the kickoff luncheon of the Brazil-Jacksonville Alliance of Northeast Florida which is betting on a rather lucrative relationship that will benefit both parties.
Joshua Rodriggs, manager for Latin American and inter modal sales for the Port Authority, has been the catalyst for the new group which has just been formed under his guidance.
“The focus of this group is commercial business,” said Rodriggs. “We want to get people involved.”
Rodriggs, who is Brazilian, has been in the country since he was a teenager and developed the vision to increase commerce and business between the United States and Brazil.
“The United States is the single largest trade partner of Brazil,” said Rodriggs. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Most businesses in Brazil use the Port of Santos in Sao Paulo as their primary destination to export goods, he said, but the port has “a lot of problems with cargo flow.”
Rodriggs hopes to solve the existing cargo problem in Sao Paulo and also prioritize the cargo rotation to Jacksonville, which is currently a “secondary market” because many imports from Brazil enter the country in Northern ports first.
His plan is simple: to redefine the way business is done locally and “improve the direct call in Jacksonville.”
“There is a sense (to make it a primary market) because there is a flow of cargo. Jacksonville has a special call for logistics,” said Rodriggs, who understands that not only the port, but also the road system and the railway system, can add a whole lot to the logistics side of trade this town has to offer.
Rodriggs is focusing his efforts on Curitiba, a southern city in Brazil which is the fastest growing region in the country, he said. He wants to open “the trade door” through the best city in the country, he added. Curitiba also offers a dry port and is the best option for businesses to operate, he added.
Rodriggs is also betting on the southern Brazilian workforce which has a lot of potential. Curitiba has earned the title of “model city of Brazil.”
“They have visitors coming from all over the world weekly,” said Rodriggs who later described Curitiba as a very modern city with environmental-policies that are ahead of most cities in the world including “a metro system which is considered perfect.”
Michael Breen, director of Cornerstone’s international department, said the key mission of the Alliance is to identify new and build upon current businesses with Brazil.
“It opens more trade to develop even further opportunities with Jacksonville,” said Breen.
Breen shares a common business view with Rodriggs that is leading both the Chamber and the Port Authority in the same direction.
“We want to establish a direct relationship with businesses in Brazil,” said Breen.
Breen’s job was not only to sponsor the kickoff luncheon and offer the place for the meeting, but also to expose Brazilian businesses to the Northeast Florida business community.
Breen said there are a number of companies the Chamber did business with in the past including exploring the possibility of bringing the Brazilian airplane factory Embraer to Jacksonville. The company’s headquarters is located in Melbourne, but Breen thinks Embraer can succeed in Jacksonville.
“There is potential for Embraer here as well,” said Breen.
Rodriggs said that under the Sister Cities program, Curitiba has “a dormant” relationship with Orlando and Jacksonville has an advantage.
“Orlando is not a port city,” said Rodriggs. “We are.”