Publish in People - Monday, November 27, 2017
Azul Chairman David Neeleman flanked by Sueli Bonaparte from the Brazil-Florida Business Council and Joe Lopano, CEO of the Tampa International Airport. (Photo: BFBC)
Coca-Cola Chairman Muhtar Kent; Jose Luis Cutrale, Chairman of the Cutrale Company; Sueli Bonaparte, Founding President, Brazil-Florida Business Council; Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Ambassador Adalnio Ganem, Consul General of Brazil in Miami.
A typical luncheon event organized by the Brazil-Florida Business Council (BFBC).
New chamber garners praise for boosting US-Brazil business ties.
BY JOACHIM BAMRUD
Although The White House, Commerce Department and US Trade Representative’s Office are all led by protectionists these days, various chambers of commerce throughout the United States are moving ahead with promoting two-way trade and investment flows between the United States and Latin America.
One of the most active is the Brazil-Florida Business Council, which after only three years in operations has gained a reputation for its high-profile Brazilian guests while scoring strong feedback from attendees of its events, who lavish praise on the council’s founder, Sao Paulo native Sueli Bonaparte.
“In three years Sueli and the BFBC have been active in Florida, she has excited the region, creating significant buzz around everything Brazil,” David Neeleman, Chairman of Brazilian airline Azul and founder of JetBlue Airways, tells Latinvex. “Azul's leadership team -- including myself -- always look forward to Sueli's events which have become standing room only! She is very well connected with business leaders in both Florida and Brazil - it is immeasurable.”
Peter Baumgaertner, Partner and Head of the Latin America Practice Group at Pillsbury law firm, agrees.
"With the Brazil-Florida Business Council, Sueli Bonaparte has established a critical bridge between one of largest business communities in Latin America and one of the fastest growing in the United States,” he says. “She's exceptionally smart, incredibly dedicated, and deserves a ton of credit for what she has done to strengthen the ties between the two markets and bring the vast opportunities they present for one another to light."
FROM NEW YORK TO FLORIDA
Bonaparte led the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce in New York for 17 years until 2010, when she moved to Tampa. As a result of her work at the chamber, she was awarded the prestigious Foreign Policy Association Meritorious Honor Award.Then in 2014 she decided to create the Brazil-Florida Business Council, which is based in Tampa, although the council has also held events in Miami and Brazil.
Brazil is Florida’s number one international trade partner, while Florida hosts the largest Brazilian community in the US and has become the favorite destination for Brazilian investment abroad, Bonaparte says.
“I recognized the unmet need for such a forum to connect business threads between Florida and Brazil during this period of renaissance that we are experiencing especially in the Tampa Bay region,” she says.
One major recent event was the November 15 ceremony to salute Jose Luis Cutrale, Chairman of the Board of the Cutrale Group, the 2017 Brazil-Florida Business Award recipient. Coca-Cola Chairman Muhtar Kent introduced the awardee. The Cutrale Group is one of the largest suppliers of orange juice in the world.
“I am continually impressed and amazed at Sueli Bonaparte's sphere of influence and her ability to attract top level multinational corporate executives and high level government officials to world class events and forums hosted by the BFBC to facilitate and foster growth between the U.S. and Brazil,” says John C. Laurie, Senior Vice President, BB&T Insurance Services. “I know of no other organization or association that is connecting people of this caliber and having the potential to make as great an economic impact for these countries.”
Meanwhile, the BFBC advisory board includes such names as Chieko Aoki, the Chief Executive Officer of Blue Tree Hotels & Resorts in Brazil, and Ronaldo C. Veirano, Founder and Chairman of Brazilian law firm Veirano Advogados.
“The work that Sueli Bonaparte and the Brazil-Florida Business Council are doing in promoting the bilateral flow of trade, investments and tourism between Brazil and Florida and vice-versa is extremely important,” Veirano says. “In addition, the organization which Sueli has created a few years ago when she moved from the New York area to Tampa also serves as a significant forum for potential investors, merchants and people involved in the tourism trade to exchange ideas and share experiences as how best to penetrate those markets and solve problems arising out of the involvement with both jurisdictions. By organizing seminars, presentations by prominent business persons and government officials from both countries and putting together trade missions both to Brazil and Florida the Brazil-Florida Business Council renders an invaluable service to their members. I never cease to be amazed by how much Sueli and the Council have achieved in the relatively short period of time in which they have been in operation.”
HELP WITH US ENTRY
Marcelo Souccar, CEO of JurItis, the US affiliate of Brazilian software company TOTVS, praises Bonaparte and the BFBC for its help when the firm was entering the market.
“Sueli Bonaparte and the Brazil-Florida Business Council have helped us soft-land in the US by connecting us with a strong network of Brazilian and US professional services companies in Florida as well as Florida-based companies doing business in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America who are eager to leverage such advances as digital technologies and artificial intelligence to improve their operations,” he says. “Our first clients in the US came through introductions made by Sueli in a series of events that the Brazil-Florida Business Council promoted during the year.”
As a result of her work, Bonaparte has received praise from public officials like Florida Governor Rick Scott, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Brazilians officials like Adalnio Senna Ganem, the Brazilian Consul General in Miami.
“I have personally known Sueli Bonaparte since the 1990’s when I worked at the Brazilian Trade Bureau in NYC while she was the head of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce in that city,” Ganem says. “Bonaparte brings all her experience and competence to make a difference with her work at the BFBC,”
WARM & PROFESSIONAL
Many of the attendees of the BFBC events single out Bonaparte’s personality, which combines high professionalism with warmth.
“She is a great public speaker and a wonderful ambassador for Brazil but when you have a private conversation she is equally engaging and sincere,” says Roger Brindley, USF System Vice President, USF World at the University of South Florida, which has had close relations with Bonaparte and the BFBC as it has a heavy Brazil focus through 130 Brazilian F-1 and J-1 students, two outgoing study abroad programs in Brazil, received two Fulbright faculty awards to Brazil in 2015-16 and have 15 international partnership agreements with 14 institutions in Brazil.
Bonaparte’s singularity also garners praise from Luis Wolf, a Managing Director at KPMG Brazil. “Sueli is … always doing her job with joy and making everyone feel comfortable and delighted to be around her,” he says.
Says Veirano: “Sueli's extreme professionalism coupled with her warm and charismatic personality have gone a long way in reinforcing the close US-Brazil business ties.”
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See also Bonaparte: Brazil Back on Track