Global Tampa Bay announced on April 19 that the participating companies in last month's export sales mission to Panama have projected future sales and economic activity of $7.35 million because of the trip.

Nine companies from the Tampa Bay region participated in the export sales mission to the Latin American country, which is one of Florida's largest merchandise export markets. The local companies participated in the U.S. Commercial Service's Gold Key Service Matchmaker program, which provided customized one-on-one meetings with companies in Panama. These Gold Key companies conducted 41 meetings with potential customers that resulted in the expected export sales.

In addition to the one-on-one Gold Key meetings, participants also attended a welcome reception hosted by the U.S. Embassy to Panama. More than a dozen delegates, including county commissioners and local business leaders, also participated in the trip and attended meetings and events, including a "Doing Business in Panama Seminar" that was organized by the Panama-American Chamber of Commerce, a tour of the City of Knowledge and USF Health Panama, and a presentation by Copa Airlines.

The delegates and Gold Key company representatives also travelled to Colon, Panama where they visited Logistics Services Panama, the Manzanillo International Terminal and Agua Clara Locks (Panama Canal Expansion).

The export sales mission to Panama, which took place March 18-21, was made possible through a partnership with Enterprise Florida, the state's public-private economic development organization. Participating small and medium-sized companies were able to apply for Enterprise Florida's Gold Key grant to help ease the cost of attending the trip.

"The costs and time involved with exporting is substantial for a company of our size. Without Global Tampa Bay making the arrangements and the EFI Gold Key grant, we wouldn't be able to pursue it," said Aydin Bilgutay, vice president of International Sales at Infinium Medical, a medical equipment manufacturer based in Largo. "The visit was a great opportunity to visit potential distributors and discuss their capabilities."

Plans for the next export sales mission to Sao Paulo, Brazil the week of Aug. 12 are already in the works.

Interested companies can contact Brent Barkway at bbarkway@pinellascounty.org for more information about Global Tampa Bay and export sales missions.