Miami mayor heads to Spain to sign ‘sister cities’ deal

Six years after Miami approved a “sister city agreement” with Madrid, Mayor Tomas Regalado will travel to Europe on June 23 to sign it with Ana Botella, the Spanish city’s mayor.

“I think that Miami is raising the bar by having a sister city relationship with Madrid, which is one of the most important cities in the world,” Regalado said.

This will be the fifth sister city relationship that Regalado has participated in since becoming mayor.

He has signed agreements with Beirut, Lebanon, and Cochabamba, Bolivia, and reactivated the relationships between Miami and Lima, Peru; Merida, Spain; and Buenos Aires.

According to Sister Cities International, the partnerships stimulate economic growth, trade, tourism and investment between the cities, laying the groundwork for business-to-business cooperation, trade missions and new market opportunities.

Regalado will be joined by a trade delegation from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

The group will spend several days exploring Madrid’s business community in search of potential business partners for Miami.

“For Miami, Spain is the largest business partner,” said Liane Ventura, senior vice president of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. “Spain has invested about $6.5 billion in Florida and there are over 300 Spanish companies that create more than 18,000 jobs.”

Both Regalado and Ventura agree that Madrid could benefit from the EB-5 Regional Center that Miami was recently approved for.

The EB-5 visa is granted to immigrant investors in the United States who invest at least $500,000 on commercial enterprises in which they employ a minimum of 10 U.S. citizens.

“If we can get one or two potential businesses to open their shops, it will mean jobs and for me 10 jobs are great,” said Regalado. “There is a lot of interest in Spain for people who want to be permanent residents of the United States through the EB-5 federal program, and Miami will do that.”

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, an EB-5 Regional Center is “any economic entity, public or private, which is involved with the promotion of economic growth, improved regional productivity, job creation and increased domestic capital investment.”

“We are the capital of Latin America, and Madrid could benefit from this,” said Regalado. “We can be for Madrid the bridge to Latin America.”

Maria Mercedes Vigón, journalism professor at Florida International University and a native of Spain, agrees.

“The relationship between the two cities could promote tourism both here and there,” she said. “These two cities could feed off each other, culturally. Sometimes when you live in Madrid you want to get out, look at a palm and relax. In Miami, you want to walk in a park, slow down, and have a late dinner.”