Texas trade mission meets with Belizean producers

When we think about Belizean export success stories, we think hot peppers and rum, but some Texans are here to find out what other spicy Belizean products or cottage industries can also go global. News Five's Kendra Griffith reports.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
Today’s trade mission is the continuation of an initiative that started last year between Tri-County Black Chamber of Commerce and Belize City. In October 2005, the Houston based organisation signed a trade agreement with Belize to try and tap into emerging markets on both sides. Working along with the delegation is the American Chamber of Commerce in Belize.

Maria Elena Sylvestre, Pres., American Chamber of Commerce in Bz.
“And the object is to bring potential investors from Houston to meet with different business groups here in Belize on a one on one basis to form maybe joint venture partnerships that can benefit Belize and of course benefit Houston as well.”

Baley Davis, Chair, Tri-Country Black Chamber of Commerce
“We’ve got companies now that attended the first session that are negotiating with Belizean companies to further that along and we’re also moving into contacts with new business owners. I like for example the spice industry here and also the shrimp farming.”

The Houston Tri-County Black Chamber of Commerce was formed little over a year ago and the agreement with Belize is its first major project. For President of the organisation, Leondria Thompson, choosing Belize as a trading partner was only natural.

Leondria Thompson, Pres., Tri-County Black Chamber of Commerce
“We chose Belize because it was the gateway to the Caribbean, as well as Central America and it is the only English speaking country in Central America. We’re only two hours away from our city, which is Houston, and it’s quite very appropriate and we like the Belizean people.”

And at today’s conference, both sides liked what they were seeing and hope that the project will be a success.

Richard E Mims, V.P., Tri-County Black Chamber of Commerce
“I think that it’s gonna be real successful. I’ve seen the increase in the participation from the Belizean people, a sense of sincerity on both sides and I just think that with both parties working together that we can work out some things that would be mutually beneficial.”

Alicia Bejos Cambranes, Store Manager, Lea’s Furniture
“I have met some wonderful people, people that are interested in my business, interested in the fact that it’s a family run business. Interested also because last night when we met I could only express myself about my furniture and also the crafts that we build. But today I could prove to them that what I was talking about to them last night is actually true.

Marilyn Gill, Owner, Genesis in the Jungle Spices
“We want to open a factory, so we came here to make connections so we can start exporting our product.”

Kendra Griffith
“Have you made any good connections?

Marilyn Gill
“Very good ones, a lot of hope is here.”

Kendra Griffith
“Now that you’ve made your connections, what next?”

Marilyn Gill
“Next is to start finding out how to do new packaging, writing business proposals, and getting this off the ground.”

Kendra Griffith for News Five.

Besides Belizean entrepreneurs, the two-day forum included participation from BELTRAIDE, TVET, the Belize Tourism Board, Ministry of Agriculture, University of Belize, and the U.S. Embassy. The Tri-County Black Chamber of Commerce is also hoping to establish formal sister city relations with Belize City and a student exchange programme between U.B. and Texas Southern University. The twelve-member delegation leaves the country on Sunday.