Broward Executives Visit Dubai Seeking Middle Eastern Investors – Sun Sentinel

There are strong similarities between Fort Lauderdale and Dubai, the most populous Persian Gulf coast city in the United Arab Emirates.

Both have man-made islands, beaches, international airports and seaports. Their local economies are heavily dependent on tourism, aviation, real estate and trade.

But Dubai, which is 7,825 miles away, has a lot more of what Fort Lauderdale and other Broward County towns need: money.

Several weeks ago, the mayors of Fort Lauderdale, Broward and Miramar, along with heads of several private sector companies, traveled to Dubai at the city’s invitation to present a wish list of projects and business ideas that may be of interest to investors. The troupe attended both the 11th annual UAE Investment Meeting and a separate global government summit.

Over the years, the AIM meeting has evolved into a premium summit on global investment trends in areas ranging from financial services and insurance and banking to infrastructure, real estate, tourism, to trade and technology.

South Florida government officials, keen to take advantage of an increase in business relocations and the migration of high-income residents from other parts of the country, say they want to raise the profile of transportation systems locals, future technology companies and international trade in the region. Port Everglades.

But some Fort Lauderdale residents are wondering how much the trip for Mayor Dean Trantalis and three of his colleagues cost. After Trantalis published a newsletter describing the visit, which took place at the end of March, some questioned whether the trip was worth the price of airfare and room bills in a city that is a world leader in 5-star hotels. . The South Florida Sun Sentinel sent a public records request to City Hall on April 18 for details on the cost of the trip, but is still awaiting a response.

No information was immediately available from Broward and Miramar County, whose mayors also visited Dubai.

Fort Lauderdale resident Robert Walsh speculated that the “around the world” trip would cost up to $30,000.

“Wait until you get the bill,” he said. “The mayor and the staff did not go there for free. You and I paid for it. It’s a hard pill to swallow. With the economy, people are paying so much for food and rent. The timing is off.

(Jon Gambrell/AP)

But the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a part, have been doing business in Florida for several years, according to Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm. In an email, a spokeswoman, citing the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, described the ways:

  • There are 13 UAE-owned establishments in Florida employing 400 Floridians in 2019. This ranks the UAE 27th among foreign investors in Florida.
  • Florida’s two-way trade with the United Arab Emirates has averaged more than $1.3 billion over the past five years. Last year, Florida had a record trade year reaching over $160 billion in total merchandise trade.
  • Looking in the opposite direction, 33 Florida-based companies operate 103 subsidiaries in the United Arab Emirates.

“They have a lot of money and I guess there are limited opportunities in that area, so they are reaching out to other parts of the world,” Trantalis said. “We want to make sure Fort Lauderdale is on their radar.”

None of the officials returned home with freshly signed contracts that reflect new agreements. But all of them, including John Wensveen, executive director of the Alan B. Levan | NSU Broward Center of Innovation, said everyone made many new contacts that may well lead to new business later.

Here’s a quick look at where officials see potential deals and business ties in the region:

Mayor Michael Udine said he has met “a number” of sovereign wealth funds in Dubai looking to place their money in the form of investments in the United States, including in Florida.

“They see what’s happening in South Florida with the technology and what’s happening with the appeal of South Florida,” he said. “There is a lot of interest in the properties. There are a lot of things with Port Everglades that have a lot of potential for developing partnerships.

Udine and Jonathan Daniels, the CEO and executive director of the port who did not make the trip, say Dubai is in the market to find ways to access maritime markets in the Caribbean and Latin America, using the port Broward local as conduit.

“It’s a way for us to do import-export using Port Everglades as a hub-and-spoke port business,” Udine said. “It was definitely one of the most interesting.”

The mayor said talks have also emerged for Emirates Airlines to return to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The airline began service between South Florida and Dubai from Broward in 2016. But it left at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, to begin service later at Miami International Airport.

Trantalis said it spoke about the proposed beach tunnel project, which would run from the city center to the A1A national road, to interested investors and government officials in Dubai.

“At least one of the ministers is going to the United States in June and they will be stopping in Fort Lauderdale to further discuss the proposals we made while we were there,” he said in a statement. interview.

In his newsletter, the mayor said he’s stepped up the Fort Lauderdale sellout. “Companies around the world are waking up to this reality and want to be part of our incredible success story,” he wrote in his newsletter. “I know. I have just returned from leading a trade delegation to Dubai for talks where we met government ministers on expanding business opportunities and spoke with investment bankers about how they can contribute to our growth. Dubai is at the crossroads of the world and was an ideal place for us to foster trade.”

Mayor Wayne Messam said he too wants to keep his city of 143,000, the 13th most populous in the state, on the radars of Emirati investors.

“Miramar has more Fortune 500 companies headquartered or present than any other South Florida city,” he said. “There is a big interest”

“My goal was to position Miramar as an option for companies in the Middle East who might consider using South Florida as an access point to emerging markets in the Caribbean or Latin America or South Florida it -even,” he said.

Messam said he understands the trade minister and other ministers from Dubai will be visiting the United States this year “and that they plan to include South Florida as one of their stops.” We will continue the discussion. Our collective visit definitely piqued their interest to learn more.

The center, based at Nova Southeastern University’s Davie Campus, held its grand official opening last week, though it has been in operation since late last year.

It evolved as a public-private partnership between Nova and Broward County, who each contributed $7.5 million, while Alan B. Levan, a longtime Broward-based financial entrepreneur, contributed $2. $5 million. Its objective is to promote and support innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in the region.

Center CEO Wensveen and Udine suggested that there are models for the center to replicate from what they saw in Dubai. Udine said he visited the Dubai Future Foundation at Museum the Future and saw things that could be replicated for the center.

“This amazing model reinvents, inspires and designs the future of Dubai in partnership with the public and private sectors with the aim of making Dubai one of the most important cities of the future in the world,” he wrote in a post on Facebook. “Imagine a ‘mall’ with storefronts housing #incubators, #accelerators, innovative #nations, service providers, etc.”

Wensveen said he plans to establish “country offices” at the Levan center where governments could use the facility to help launch new businesses or expand existing ones. It is currently in talks with the Netherlands to initiate such an arrangement and has attracted interest from several Latin American countries.

Writer Susannah Bryan contributed to this story.

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