|Canadian Consul General for Florida Ms. Susan Harper visited Elected Officials, Business Leaders, and Economic Development personnel in Pensacola on Wednesday Evening|
Yesterday evening a dinner at Skopelo's was arranged for local elected officials, business leaders, economic development professionals, and special guests from Canada.
Consul General for Miami Susan Harper, together with Mr. Laurent Morel-a-l'Huissier, an attache from the Miami office made the trip up north to the Florida panhandle; Ms. Harper, the highest ranking Canadian Diplomat in Florida, and Mr. a-l'Huisseir, her business and politics officer, joined this group for dinner and a chat about several interesting topics.
Welcoming Ms. Harper to Escambia County were Mayor Ashton Hayward, Santa Rosa County Commissioner Bob Cole, Scott Luth from Florida West, and myself. We each were given the opportunity to address the assembled group and to welcome Ms. Harper.
Ms. Harper has a long and celebrated career in the Canadian Foreign Service, her biography is an impressive read. She began the evening's discussion session over dinner, after introductions of all the attendees were made, with a general overview of the relationship between Canada and Florida.
Canada and Florida enjoy a relationship that is flourishing--with nearly 300 businesses in the state that are owned by Canadians or subsidiaries of Canadian companies. Florida and Canada do nearly $8 Billion a year in trade-much of it tourism and real estate purchases and transactions between Canadian "Snow Birds" and Florida residents. And Canada currently has 70 Canadian Military personnel (10 percent of all Canadian Military in the U.S.) at duty stations throughout Florida. Ms. Harper has the job of working to assist Canadians in Florida with issues they run across while here, and an ancillary duty of the Consul General is to assist with forming trade relationships between Floridians and Canadians. This particular trip to the Florida panhandle was just such a trade discussion session.
The primary topic of the evening was NAFTA. The conversation among the business leaders and Ms. Harper centered on this trade agreement that has been discussed in the media recently--with some discussion by President Trump of renegotiating the deal. (NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, was initiated by President George H.W. Bush and eventually passed and implemented by President Bill Clinton in 1994.) The conversation at the table was about the effect of NAFTA on business. Several attendees shared that the initial impact on rural communities in the south was extremely negative-with many communities losing jobs. Several manufacturers in the room expressed support for the agreement as it has opened markets for their products and increased sales. Generally, most of the attendees agreed that once the long view was taken, there was no doubt that overall NAFTA has been good for business.
All sides agreed, however, that the negativity associated with NAFTA appears to be directed at and
associated with Mexico--not Canada.
The other topic of great interest and conversation centered around a very nasty and public court battle between Canadian company Bombardier and American Aerospace Giant Boeing over Bombardier's "C" series jet. This conversation was interesting because several of the attendees are intimately familiar with this issues as they manufacture products for the aerospace industry--and several discussed that the "C" Series jet fills an aviation niche that is currently not filled as it is sized between the Embraer Regional Jet and the Boeng 737--therefore filling a void in the market that exists at present. According the the Consul General (and confirmed by several in the group) the C series plane is an aviation "Game Changer." So aviation buffs in the room were treated to a very interesting discussion about this issue and this court case. It is messy and it has dragged-on, and hopefully it will not spoil the Canadian-Floridian trade environment....
A special thank you goes out to Florida West for organizing this event. Scott Luth and Danita Andrews from Florida West did a great job bringing this together on short notice, organizing this event in the middle of the crazy-busy holiday season.
Ms. Harper was very appreciative and she thanked the panhandle for the warm welcome, the turnout, and the lively and frank conversation.