TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn is back in Panama this week, leading another effort to build business and community ties between Latin America and the Tampa region.
Buckhorn left Tampa Monday morning with 40 members of the region’s business and education communities.
The delegation includes the mayor’s wife, Dr. Cathy Lynch, associate vice president for women’s health at the University of South Florida, along with seven other leaders of USF Health and four representatives of CAMLS, the University of South Florida’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation.
The Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. covers the cost of Buckhorn’s participation, estimated at $1,007, and delegates pay a participation fee plus their cost of travel.
The group made the three-hour flight Monday morning from Tampa to Panama City on Copa Airlines, Panama’s national airline. Copa began directly flights from Tampa International Airport last December. Buckhorn and an array of local dignitaries joined the inaugural flight.
Rick Homans, president of the Economic Development Authority, said this trip builds further on connections made between the Tampa region and Panama over more than a half-dozen years. Those connections began with Tampa International officials courting Copa.
“Before, we were selling Copa on Tampa Bay,” Homans said. “Now Copa is our partner. We both have a stake in building the business between Panama and Tampa Bay.”
Buckhorn speaks frequently about wanting to make Tampa America’s gateway to Latin America. Since taking office, he has visited Panama, Colombia and Brazil on trade missions.
On Wednesday, Panama City Mayor Roxanna Mendez de Obarrio is scheduled to present Buckhorn with a key to her city.
“It’s all about building strong relationships,” Homans said.
The group will be in Panama until Wednesday. The agenda for the visit includes a peek behind the scenes at Copa’s operations center and a seminar called “Doing Business in Tampa” hosted by the Panamanian Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.
There will also be an update on the widening of the Panama Canal, now mired in a dispute over payments and $1.8 billion in cost-overruns.