The first Florida International Trade Expo takes place from March 16-18

Enterprise Florida Inc (EFI), the official economic and trade development agency for the State of Florida, will be throwing open its doors for business online with the very first Florida International Trade Expo.

The Expo takes place from March 16-18 and visitors can register at The virtual event will feature more than 150 of the state’s leading products and services providers. The Expo is aimed at agents, distributors, buyers, representatives, and wholesalers seeking high-quality products for distribution and sale in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, Africa, Asia and Middle East.

FINN spoke to Enterprise Florida’s Senior VP for International Trade and Development Manny Mencia and Mike Cooney, Director, International Trade and Development and Aviation, Aerospace and Defence Specialist, about the virtual event – a first within the US.

The Florida Trade Expo virtual event is the first major multi-sector trade show within the US. Can you give a little background on how and why the event was established?

MM: “Enterprise Florida has one of the largest and most aggressive international trade development programs in the United States. Our international business community is one of the largest and most impactful in the United States in economic terms.”

We attend roughly 30 international events annually. These are all brick and mortar events, including every major air show in the world, major life sciences, IT shows and Trade missions.”

When the economy shut down in Florida back in March 2020, an overwhelming number of companies were affected. We felt that it was essential to continue to find vehicles to assist these companies to do business overseas, perhaps identify new clients and possibly replace them and, at the very least, to begin to have relationships for when the economy hopefully begins to bounce back later this year.”

We brainstormed and came up with the idea of doing a virtual trade show. To my knowledge no other state has done anything as ambitious, so we’re still, to this day, the trailblazers.”

Which aerospace and aviation companies will be exhibiting at the Florida International Trade Expo?

MC: “We’ve recorded, I believe, nearly 180 companies. This includes 14 major academic institutions and a significant number of companies in our target sector of service providers and partner organisations.”

Florida is one of the top three States for MRO concentrations. There are six aviation and aerospace exhibitors including commercial and defence aircraft distributor Hurricane Aerospace Solutions, and aviation parts supplier Avacore LLC. In addition, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, one of the foremost industry-specific educational institutions in the world, is exhibiting, too .”

EFI hosts the Florida Pavilion at the Farnborough Airshow, the Paris Air Show, The Dubai Airshow and the Singapore Air Show which I organise and manage. Typically 10 to 15 Florida aviation companies exhibit at each airshow.”

Our objective is to get the word out about the industry – there’s a lot more to Florida than you might think and aviation is by far one of the most concentrated and value added and certainly employs a lot of people at very high wages.”

Aerion Supersonic is moving its HQ to Florida and Lilium and Ferrovial have just announced a series of vertiports to be built across the State. What other exciting projects are happening in Florida?

MC: “There are a number of projects in the pipeline but one that springs to mind is Singapore Technologies. They have a very large contract in what we call the panhandle of Florida.

In order to attract companies of that stature and that technology, you need to have the people who can support it. So one thing that’s not been well known about Florida is that it’s also been a testbed for a variety of technologies – even restaurant concepts and technology used by everyday consumers.”

These companies are not only from the United States but from the UK or other parts of the world. If a particular company wants to profile or test or see how the public responds, Florida is an incredible location.”

Your event aims to attract 5,000 visitors over the three-day period. Can you give details of some of the features which will enable companies to engage virtually at the event?

MM: “This show was born out of a need in promoting Florida so that we can sustain this significant export sector which supports about two and a half million jobs – that’s roughly one out of every four. We are also probably one of the hottest markets in the United States for relocations.”

We are working with a company called NexTech Solutions and they have a terrific platform which will allow the visitors to come in and visit the different booths on the show, engage in communication and ask questions.”

They can also make a virtual appointment or meet with them one-on-one during the show. One of the excellent features is that it allows you to do a variety of webinars, one each day. It’s a very interactive platform.”

In addition, we’re working through our International offices in 12 locations around the world, which includes the UK and Ireland to encourage registrations.”

MC: “One of the other features of the platform is translation. The event is available in 12 or more languages through Google Translate. We’ve just had a request the other day to add Russian. All of the content that is normally part of the event can be translated into these various languages.”

Videos will have closed caption translation, so that’s pretty powerful. When you’re accommodating the rest of the world, it’s important to get the word out and to benefit our exhibitors with potential customers being able to understand their products and their services better.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on aerospace and aviation. What strategies are in place to aid recovery?

MC: “The issue of strategies to aid post-pandemic recovery have become something that everybody is acutely aware of. Under Manny’s leadership, we immediately pivoted to offer virtual versions of two of our most popular brands.”

Florida International Trade and Development offers five grants. I don’t know any other state that even comes close to that. Our grants offer opportunities for people to get involved in the international market in a variety of ways too.”

The most popular have been our trade show grants whereby companies that are exhibiting at shows anywhere outside the US can receive a reimbursable grant of 75 per cent – up to $7,500 – which can go a long way, especially for small companies that otherwise simply don’t have the resources and the human power to do that.”

Space Florida and EFI will host a Florida Pavilion at SpaceComm Expo. What type of companies do you expect to exhibit in the Pavilion?

MC: “Space-Comm Expo is very specific to rockets and satellites. Our goal is that the Florida Pavilion will have between six and 10 companies exhibiting, including Space Florida, which is our equivalent on the space side, as it relates to the attraction of space related activities. I see this as a really exciting opportunity to showcase Florida’s aerospace sector as we have many other aspects of aviation.”


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