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International Trade Symposium to Belize a success

By Floyd Miller



Belize City, Belize- The international trade symposium to Belize as a direction of tri-county Black Chamber of Commerce of Houston was a success. The delegation was led by Ms. Leondria Thompson, CEO of tri-county Black Chamber of Commerce. Other program participants from the US was the Honorable Caroline R. Davis, City of Dallas City Council member, Mr. Ron Patterson, Chairman of the International Committee for the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. Floyd Miller, president of the Abilene Black Chamber of Commerce. {{more}} There were approximately 25 other individuals on the trade missions from the US. Among them were Marilyn Miller, West Texas Tribune and Educator, and Paul and Elsie Lewis with Empower Energy and Solar Products from Abilene, Texas. Paul and Elsie had one of the most interesting presentations on solar energies. Paul said“ that he met all of his objectives and he anticipates a long term business relationship in Belize. The Belizeans were interested in solar power because in many parts of the country, there is no electricity, and where there is electricity, it is expensive.Ms. Leondria Thompson, Chairwoman & CEO of Tri-County Chamber led the delegation to Belize. The people of Belize are very friendly and they have a desire to enter into business relationships to help improve their economy. The main language is English. Their government is a democratic and most of people dress like US citizens. They drive on the same side of the roads as US citizens. One US dollar is worth two Belizean dollars. A lot of the barriers you find in doing business with foreign countries are eliminated. In fact, Marilyn and I were attending a Buffalo Soldiers presentation at The Bliss Theater, and as we looked at the audience, there were very few things to remind us that we were not in the United States.Sherri Gongara, Prime Minister Barrow and Walter Gongara. The Gonoras live in Houston and own a taxi service in Belize. Several individuals from Belize spoke at the trade mission. The Prime Minister, Honorable Dean Barron, told us that he was willing to do anything that would be helpful in developing business relationships. Mr. Michael Singh, CEO Ministry of Tourism stated that they’re doing more zoning. They are actually working on a “master plan” for tourists. This would be good because there would be regulations and standards for hotels and other structures in certain areas. This would insure some uniformity in their buildings. They want Belize to develop, but not necessarily to become the next Cancun. They want to keep the Brazilian culture intact. They are interested in building hotels with 50 to 100 rooms.L to R Marilyn Miller and Elsie Lewis at Trade Mission Synposium in Belize. Mr. Roberto Harrison with BELTRAIDE that’s the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service, shared this. The mission of BELTRAIDE is to promote investments in Belize and one of its core activities is to support potential investors seeking to invest in Belize. Mr. Harrison noted five areas in which they are interested in developing, and they are agri-business, aqua-culture, environmental good and services, information and communication technology, and tourism. Tourism currently accounts for about 90% of the business in Belize. Mr. Harrison talked about two programs that give benefits to investors. The first one off them is the export processing zone in Belize. This is intended to attract both local and foreign investments to generate production for exports with a focus on manufactured goods and non-traditional agricultural products. There are many benefits for locating a business in the export processing zone known as EPZ. The second area that he discussed was the Fiscal Incentive Act. This was designed to encourage genuine investment in Belize through tax holiday and duty exemptions. The act provides both existing and prospective investors’ economic activities. Fiscal incentive benefits are: Tax holidays for five years from date of production. Tax holidays of up to 25 years for the companies engaged in agriculture, agri-industrial products, mariculture, food processing and manufacturing with operations centered on export and operations that are labor intensive. They have also exemptions from income tax, including repatriation of profits and dividends.L to R Mr. Vidal Laventon, of Dallas visits with Mrs. Hyacinth Latchman-Cuellar Belize City Counslior , and Attorney General & Minister of Foregin Trade Wilfred Elrington Photo By Floyd Miller. The Honorable Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Trade spoke, about his 31 years in private practice as an attorney, during which time he only saw seven or eight blacks from the U.S. that wanted to start a business in Belize. He also indicated that he had seen many people become wealthy investing in Belize, and he always wondered why there were not blacks from the US investing in Belize. He also stated that blacks in America are a very blessed group. They are wealthier, more educated, more dominant in sports, politics, and just about anything else than blacks anywhere else in the world. He also said, “The opportunities are plentiful, but the entrepreneurs are few”. He stated that the government is prepared to work with any and all parties. He said we have the land, the water, and the sun to produce much, but we do not have the education and the resources. The trip was a very good one Because of past successful trade Missions Hosted by The Tri-County Chamber of Commerce, trust levels were very high. I believe that there are true opportunities in Belize and the people of Belize and the government will welcome entrepreneurs who have done their homework.L to R Mr. Vidal Laventon, of Dallas visits with Mrs. Hyacinth Latchman-Cuellar Belize City Counslior , and Attorney General & Minister of Foregin Trade Wilfred Elrington Photo By Floyd Miller.

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