Brazil is the sixth largest economy in the world. And while the global spotlight is on the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, there is a lot more to Brazil than gorgeous mountains, sparkling beaches and lush rainforests.
There might even be lucrative opportunities for Nevada businesses.
On Nov. 4, a 25-member Brazilian Trade Mission from Espirito Santo visited Las Vegas on a tour that would also take them to Reno and San Diego. The goal is to build long-term trade partnerships between the two countries. Among the delegates were representatives of the governor’s office of the State of Espirito Santo, the state’s investment agency and Brazilian businessmen and women.
Just directly north of Rio, along the coast is the state of Espirito Santo, the largest producer of oil in Brazil. Its capital, Vitoria, is the biggest steel producer in the world. Espirito Santo also boasts the largest complex of shipping ports in South America.
The U.S. has traded goods with Brazil for decades and exports over $42 billion in goods to the country each year, accounting for 15 percent of all Brazilian imports.
The delegates in the mission have identified three urgently needed import areas in which Nevada has considerable expertise: water and energy savings technology, and assistance in developing and expanding tourism, in particular, eco-tourism.
Another needed import is solar. Jairo Alves is the owner of Solarvix Energia, a company that designs and installs solar panels for commercial and residential applications.
Energy prices in Brazil have risen 80 percent in the past year, mostly due to climate change. For decades, the country has relied on hydroelectric power, but a severe drought has caused a decrease in the amount of water that flows through the rivers. This has forced the country to use petroleum and coal-fired power plants, once used for backup, as their main source of power. The higher cost of fuel has in turn escalated the cost to produce power.
The government of Brazil has authorized the construction of 24 solar projects that will produce over 2 gigawatts of power for the nation. However, to build those projects, the country needs to import over 8 million solar panels. Alves is looking to U.S. distributors for answers to this problem.
Louise Helton, owner and vice president of Las Vegas-based 1 Sun Solar, may have the answers. Helton spent an hour with Alves, discussing his needs and identifying business contacts in her Rolodex for purposes of introductions. It was the possibility for this type of face-to-face discussion that prompted the trade mission.
On the export side, Brazil is well known for its coffee production — 1.584 billion pounds each year, much of it destined for European and North American countries. However, the trade mission was eager to call attention to the nation’s many other products, such as ginger root, tropical fruits, black pepper, iron ore, pulp products, fair-trade chocolate and, of course, steel.
Nearly on par with coffee production is the cocoa bean from which chocolate is made. Two of the mission representatives were from Espirito Cacau, translated to mean Spirit Cocoa, that has been in business for three generations, producing some of the finest “fair-trade” dark chocolate in the world. This family owned company is looking to find outlets in Las Vegas and throughout the U.S.
Also among the members of the mission were representatives of four companies that mine granite, marble and other stone building materials. In Brazil, there are more than 1,000 companies that operate quarries and produce staggering amounts of material each year. Much of the granite and other decorative stones had been shipped to China, to feed that nation’s decade-long construction boom. However, China has been experiencing a slowdown in construction and Brazil is looking for other markets, such as Las Vegas, for this product.
During their daylong conference at Planet Hollywood, members of the mission were introduced to several Las Vegans who were able to provided information about working in Clark County and the State of Nevada.
Among the speakers was Antony Santos of A.M Santos Law, who spoke about imports/exports in Nevada and the local trade-free zone.” Andrew Edlefsen, Nevada director of the U.S. Commercial Service, spoke on trade Relations between the U.S. and Brazil. And Michael Erin, chief of staff and director of operations for the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, gave an overview of the advantages that Nevada and Clark County have for businesses that choose to establish an office.
The event was the result of the efforts of Charles McNeely, president of MCE Solutions LLC, and former Reno city manager. McNeely has been working with Brazilian trade associations for more than 10 years and has been instrumental in forging several trade relationships in the past.
McNeely is planning to send a delegation of U.S. representatives to Brazil in 2016. Reach him at MCESolutions@gmail.com.