Area leaders are rising to the challenge of moving Metro Orlando from just an international tourist destination to a business destination. CZA Inc. was founded by Carmenza Gonzalez, the former vice president of international business development for the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission. She is still marketing Florida as the ideal place to come and do business, while assisting Central Florida business in navigating the waters of international markets in South America, Europe and beyond.
About her time with the EDC: I truly enjoyed working for the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission (EDC) and was proud to lead the international business development initiatives for the region for ten years. I participated in trade and business development missions with Florida’s governors and planned and executed several missions for the mayors of Orlando and Orange County, doing what I did best… promoting, marketing and attracting businesses from around the world to our great region. Florida has everything that a company looks for when planning an expansion . . . an excellent climate, a good quality of life, close to Latin America and Europe, and a multilingual, skilled workforce.
Her company’s mission: CZA provides consulting services to U.S. companies wanting to sell their products and/or services overseas. Typically, we assess whether or not a company is actually ready to export by providing detailed information about the potential markets for their products and giving a general overview on how to do business overseas, including the cultural and protocol aspects. All markets and countries are different. For instance, there are twenty countries in Latin America and at least three principle languages are spoken…Spanish, Portuguese and French.
key steps to consider before entering the international market: First, have the money to do business internationally, as it takes capital to be successful. Second, understand the market thoroughly . . . how big is it? Who are the competitors? Is there a demand or competitive advantage for their product? Finally, they should already be positioned to produce and export their products.
Primary resources for potential exporters: There are several in the state of Florida. Enterprise Florida Inc. (EFI) is the statewide organization responsible for promoting the state as a business destination and also promoting international trade. If the company is “export ready,” the U.S. Department of Commerce will assist companies by providing guidance, information and data. There are also regional and local economic development organizations like our EDC throughout the state. Some have existing international programs and some are in the process of doing so.
Observations on recent trip to Chile: The Chilean economy continues to be a model for developing countries, surpassing their forecasted 5.5 percent growth for the second consecutive year, with an unemployment rate of only 5.1 percent, and the political landscape of the country is very stable. Florida enjoys a significant share of the total U.S. exports to Chile. It is ranked as Florida’s sixth-best market with over $2.4 billion in Florida origin exports – an increase of 22 percent since 2011. Companies there see great opportunities in doing business with companies in Florida and it is up to us to continue the relationship by facilitating information, providing details and making them welcome to our state and/or region.
To make Central Florida a destination for international businesses: We need to unify our efforts. The international business community is somewhat disconnected since there is not a central organization that unites our international strategy, but that is exactly what I am looking to do. I have always believed that in international business there are no boundaries . . . we all have one goal in common – to grow our businesses through international trade and Foreign Direct investment.