Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade mayor to travel on business mission to Spain, France

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez will travel to Spain on Saturday as part of large delegation looking to promote the county as a business destination.

More than 25 people will make the week-long trip to Madrid and Barcelona, including Commissioner Javier Souto and a half-dozen county staffers.

The travel expenses for Gimenez and the county employees, estimated at more than $2,800 each, will be paid for by a nonprofit set up to fund these sorts of trips. Souto’s expenses will be paid for out of his taxpayer-funded office budget. The other delegates from outside county government will pay their own way.

The visit will mark Gimenez’s second voyage abroad as mayor. Last November he traveled to Israel for a six-day leadership and educational seminar hosted by Project Interchange, an educational institute of the American Jewish Committee. Those trip costs were borne by the institute or the travelers.

From Spain, Gimenez will head to France as part of a four-day trip organized by the Beacon Council to the Paris Air Show, where the economic development agency will be an exhibitor. The county has been pushing for years for its own commercial aviation expo — preferably at the Homestead Air Reserve Base, though the idea has been repeatedly blocked by federal regulatory hurdles.

The county will be on the hook for the cost of the mayor’s flight from Barcelona to Paris (the cost was unavailable Thursday) and for one county staffer’s airfare, hotel and credentials for the show — more than $1,800 not counting the plane ticket. The Beacon Council, which is mostly funded by county dollars, will pay for the mayor’s lodging and air show credentials.

The Spain trip was organized by the county’s economic development and international trade unit, part of the department of regulatory and economic resources, as a “business development mission.” The itinerary includes meetings with the U.S. ambassador in Madrid, the U.S. consul in Barcelona and the mayor of Madrid, as well as visits to Spain’s ministry of economy and competitiveness and the Port of Barcelona.

Miami-Dade delegation members will make presentations to businesses and chambers of commerce in both cities about how to set up shop in the county. Among those presentations will be sessions led by PortMiami and Miami International Airport administrators.

Other stops include a tour of a Madrid transit agency and a “gourmet bus tour” of Barcelona. The goal is to bring more Spanish companies to Miami-Dade and to promote the county’s existing businesses in Spain, Gimenez said Thursday, as well as to pick up ideas about mass transit systems, for example.

“You go to learn, not only just for trade,” he said.

The number of Spanish companies in Miami-Dade is more than double those from any other country, according to the county.

Those making the trip from Gimenez’s administration include Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Ferro and Communications Director Fernando Figueredo. Ferro will also head to Paris with Gimenez.

Other Spain delegates include William Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau; Alyce Robertson, executive director of Miami’s Downtown Development Authority; Robin Reiter, interim president of the Beacon Council, and several representatives of law firms, banks and construction companies.

Several Gimenez supporters are traveling as well: lawyer Marcelo Llorente of LSN Partners and his managing partner, Alex Heckler; and Ralph Garcia-Toledo of G-T Construction Group and his wife, Vicky Garcia-Toledo, a partner at the law firm Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod. Gimenez’s daughter-in-law Barbara Rodriguez-Gimenez, director of client relations at the law firm Genovese Joblove & Battista, is also a delegate. All are registered as lobbyists at County Hall.

Gimenez’s wife, Lourdes, will also be making the trip. She and any other spouses who join the Spain mission and use its transportation or attend its events must pay the $500 per-person registration fee required of all delegates.

That fee is paid to the nonprofit, the Trade Mission Center for the Americas, which will later reimburse Gimenez and the county employees for their travel expenses.

Airfare for the Spain trip is estimated at $1,350 per person and lodging at $1,539 per person. The nonprofit will also reimburse meals and other incidentals up to $100 a day, county spokeswoman Suzy Trutie said.

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