Miami’s financial problems have created an opportunity for Atlanta to become the next major contact point for Latin American business, said John O’Brien, an Atlanta-based business consultant who attended the Dec. 8-12 meeting in Miami of the Caribbean/Latin America Action (CLAA), in a Dec. 30 interview with GlobalFax.

      CLAA is a nonprofit private organization based in Washington, D.C. that promotes private sector oriented economic development in the Caribbean and Latin America.  The annual Miami conference has served as the leading international forum for new policy directions and business development for more than 10 years, and typically attracts approximately 2,000 participants, primarily senior government officials and business leaders.

      Mr. O’Brien, who served as a conference “raporteur,” a voluntary position responsible for compiling and editing conference notes, said that after Miami, Atlanta is the closest major eastern city for Latin Americans.

      Poor fiscal management by Miami city officials has left the city with a projected $68.2 million debt, and has led some local political activists to launch a petition drive to merge the city with Metro Dade.  The FBI recently investigated several of the officials and uncovered evidence of political graft that may have contributed to the debt.

      With Miami preoccupied with its own problems, he said, it’s important for Atlanta to be aware of trade policies being made at conferences like the CLAA event, and to be ready to take advantage of any opportunities that might arise. 

      The first challenge for Atlanta, he added, is to develop human capital that is bi- or multi-cultural and multi-lingual.  A lack of direct flights to Latin America is also an issue for Atlanta, he said.

      For more information, Mr. O’Brien can be reached at (404) 249-9922, or e-mail to: