Report of Fact Finding Trip to Tallahassee


by Board Member Tamara Leonard and Executive Director Claret Connor, February 19 -23, 2012
St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board Member Tamara Leonard and Executive Director Claret Connor were tasked by Chamber President Arthur Bute to explore additional areas of cooperation between Sister Cities St. Maarten and Tallahassee, Florida. The main goal was to drum up new opportunities for business (broadly), cultural exchange and future development.

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Since the sister city has been in existence, the focus and success have been in the area of education. St. Maarten students have been benefitting from the in-state tuition at state universities.
Moving Forward
Leonard and Connor honed in on aspects of the sister city agreement that have never explored to a great intent. Stemming from this, a series of meetings were held and contact made for future projects in the areas of Commerce, Community, Culture and Chamber Relations.
From those meetings, it was determined that opportunities for St. Maarten businesses and budding entrepreneurs are many. Tapping into these require swift actions in partnerships and projects on which the Chamber together with its counterpart in Tallahassee can make in-roads.
Commerce: Meeting with Mayor John Marks
A meeting was held with Tallahassee Mayor John Marks III about the investment opportunities on St Maarten via tourism development. The mayor is very interested in creating linkages and exchanges with St. Maarten.
Projects on their linkages and exchanges have to be developed and further worked out for optimal benefits.
Energy: The sister city agreement has the potential to open St. Maarten to China, specifically the City of Rugao as Tallahassee and Rugao are now sister cities and through this, ongoing development of trade and energy production are possibilities to explore.
A meeting was with held with Florida Representative Michele Vasilinda and Dean Minardi of Bing Energy. Bing is currently exploring the production of new energy technology in China.
New tech apps: Chamber representatives met with Florida Representative Alan Williams about exploration into waste management, certification and various educational avenues including online employee recruitment services and computer applications. Projects are to be followed up on.
Culture: Meeting with Florida House Representative Hazelle P. Rogers
Participation in Florida’s International Caribbean Day Celebration from the standpoint of exposing Tallahassee and other residents of Florida to St. Maarten’s unique offerings and culture was the highlight of a meeting with Florida House Representative Hazelle P. Rogers.
Opportunities for sports tourism are also available. Tallahassee Tourist Director Mr Lee Daniel indicated that they are home to avid mountain bikers, bikers trails and rivers and hosts a series of competition annually. A recommendation is to have a team of St. Maarten cycle enthusiast be part of an exhibition or competition in Tallahassee. This will create linkages with cycling clubs and eventual exchange visits.
Another sport gaining ground in Tallahassee is disc golf. Disc golf is a disc game in which individual players throw a flying disc into a car or at a target. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, “The object of the game is to traverse a course from beginning to end in the fewest number of throws of the disc.” This is a niche business opportunity for a St. Maarten entrepreneur.
Community: Why not visit your sister city?
Tallahassee officials are working to upgrade its regional airport to an international one. Adding St. Maarten as a preferred (in demand) destination can help this goal with the spin off being an expanded Florida tourism market for our country. A meeting on this topic was held with Tallahassee Tourist Director Mr Lee Daniel.
One approach to this goal is exposing residents of the sister cities to what each destination have to offer without an extensive marketing campaign. The use of strategically placed billboards in both “cities” can make residents more aware of the link between Tallahassee and St. Maarten while suggesting “why not visit your sister city?”
Leonard as a board member recommends an immediate project in this regard to showcase St. Maarten to their City of Tallahassee via the local media by inviting the top three media houses, television and radio and newspapers and to send their journalists to this year’s Carnival celebrations.
A programme for the trip will be developed to ensure maximum exposure of the destination and the sister city agreement. Complimentary airfare and accommodations can be worked on. (Further details will be worked out if project is accepted by board.)
An exchange trip for St. Maarten media to cover the International Caribbean Day Celebration will be worked on with the Tallahassee-St Maarten Foundation and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. This will further highlight the sister city agreement and opportunities for business and trade developments.