Port Manatee Provides Bridge to Latin America



While trade at Port Manatee still chiefly involves Latin American nations, executives there say the port has increasingly developed a reputation as the connection to North America and not just the Latin-focused market.

“North America really starts around Sarasota,” jokes Carlos Buqueras, executive director for Port Manatee.

While ports in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have grown their reputation for connecting to a Spanish-speaking market in the United States, Port Manatee provides the bridge to the rest of the nation. “You have a hard time finding a waiter who speaks English in Miami,” Buqueras says. But if companies in Argentina, Chile, Guatemala and other Central and South American nations want business meetings with American companies, this party of the state can sometimes prove more conducive.

Boqueras estimates that upward of 80 percent of business at the port comes to or from Latin America (including the Caribbean). Another 10 to 15 percent of business comes to or from Europe, with another 5 percent coming to or from the Middle East (including Turkey).

The International Trade Hub Incubator at Port Manatee, launched in 2014, continues to expand, assisting companies from around the world with production and distribution through the Palmetto port. A look through the list of collaborators there shows professionals from the United States, Columbia, Chile and Spain setting up shop, often touting bilingual staffs ready to do business on either side of the Panama Canal.

Buqueras says he must still reach out to business partners in the U.S. and internationally with persistence. Programs like the Hub and trade missions help educate people about the services at Port Manatee. “If people don’t already know about Manatee-Sarasota, they are not going to reach out to us, and they won’t find their way here by mistake,” he says. 

So staff works to bring individuals here to see what can be achieved at this port. But there’s plenty of signs Palmetto has gotten on more trade partners’ radar.

Pictured: Port Manatee International Center

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