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Lieutenant Governor Leads Trade Mission to Trinidad & Tobago

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j-carrollShe may be facing some personal challenges, but Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll is focused on building business-to-business relationships between Florida and her native home Trinidad & Tobago.

As Trinidad & Tobago celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence this month, Carroll leads about thirty small and medium-sized businesses on a trade mission to the twin island republic. The week-long business tour of the country’s oil & gas, manufacturing, and service industries will hopefully lead to partnerships and fruitful investment for the resource-rich island and the state of Florida.

“We have not cultivated this relationship for expansion of trade and marketing and manufacturing since 1999. So, it’s natural with my heritage, being born in Trinidad, and being the highest ranking official in the country in elected position and being so close to my birth land, to not see this as an opportunity to share with companies in Florida a viable option for trading closer than European markets,” Lieutenant Governor Carroll expressed in a telephone interview.

Synergies

Although Trinidad & Tobago has traditionally done more business with the UK and Europe, Carroll explained that Florida can benefit from the the twin island republic’s initiative to diversify their oil and natural gas-production focused economy by taking advantage of the natural synergies that already exist.

“The last 2010 census showed us that over 40,000 people from Trinidad & Tobago live in Florida. And last year we had over 75,000 visitors from Trinidad & Tobago that came to Florida. We might as well make it a great economic opportunity for both sides,” said Carroll.

The Lieutenant Governor revealed that Florida’s international business sector account for approximately 1.3 million jobs. The sector generated 18 percent of the state’s economy last year. And importantly, bilateral trade between Florida and Trinidad totaled $1.9 billion in 2011.

The trade mission will include a diverse mix of industries including manufacturing, services, and finance. As they tour the twin islands, the goal will be to increase opportunities for businesses that currently exist and create partnerships for economic development on both sides of the Caribbean sea.

The Lieutenant Governor will use her government and regulatory knowledge and experience to help bridge the trade gap. In fact, when Carroll served in the Florida Legislature she chaired several committees including the Finance, Economic Development & Transportation, and Economic Council groups.

“All of those committees dealt with the business industry, the regulations, the policies, and the things that we can, as a state, put forward to make a better business climate -- reduce regulations, reduce taxes so that we can have a better business friendly state so that the private sector can grow.”

Advantages

Carroll believes she can advocate for Florida businesses and underscore the advantages collaboration would create for Trinidad and Tobago as well.

“The Caribbean basin is very important to Florida’s international trade sector and it hasn’t been cultivated throughout the years. So, we certainly want to strengthen those cultural ties and the trade partnership that we can see increase mutual benefit for our economies,” the Lieutenant Governor said.

Strong and poised, this daughter of the Caribbean credits her parents for shaping her, also acknowledging her Navy background as a contributing factor.

“They weren’t my biological parents, but they were the best parents that I could have ever had to raise me. Through their love, guidance, and support and being good role models for me, that was my initial, and continues to be my shaping as a person, a mother, and a wife. My military background, it gave me that tough back that I need to have to put up with and weather the storm with some of the adversities and trials and tribulations that come along.”

Asked how she balances her government responsibilities and family life, Carroll didn’t have to think about it.

“I do it primarily with the help of my husband and my children... my husband is there one hundred and ten percent, and even now. I could not even ask for a better husband. He has been absolutely phenomenal, helping out where he can, being supportive in every single way, and being that sounding voice for me. Now that my kids are grown, all of them are out of the house now... but, they are equally supportive as well and very concerned and loving children. The Lord has truly blessed me to put the foundation in place and the support mechanism for my family in place to enable me to do the things that I am able to do.”

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