Gilich, Hewes lead trade mission to Colombia

Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich and Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes led a Coast trade mission to Rionegro and Medellin Colombia earlier this week in hopes of luring a major floral exporter to the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport.

While in Colombia, the mayors’ group met with Santiago Cock-Rada, president of Carmel Flowers, and visited his extensive farm operation in Rionegro. Cock-Rada currently is the leading floral importer to the United States, sending his products northward through Miami International Airport.

The mayors hosted a visit from Cock-Rada and Colombian officials earlier this year, convincing them of the benefits of importing flowers into Gulfport through Gateway America LLC. Gateway offers irradiation treatment at the Coast airport for imported goods.

Harrison County Development Commission Executive Director Bill Lavers, Gateway America President Frank Benso and other Coast leaders joined the mayors on the trip to the Antioquia province of Colombia. They met with local government and business leaders to discuss various trade opportunities.

On Monday, Gilich and Hewes signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Rionegro Mayor Andrew Rendon that states the parties’ intent to continue developing trade opportunities in business, education, culture and tourism.
Gallery: Photos from Rionegro