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  • 15 Mar 2017 4:43 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    “Inspiring!”, “Motivational!”, “Awesome!”, all adjectives heard from audience members describing Alba Rodriguez, Project Executive with Skanska USA Building and February’s TBOWIT luncheon speaker. Ms. Rodriguez found a niche in the architecture/construction world that led to a highly successful 33 year (and counting) career designing and building healthcare projects from hospitals to outpatient centers. For example, locally, she designed the Carillon Outpatient Center in Carillon Business Park, St Petersburg. As well, she has led the design of the Lee Moffitt Cancer Center for 18 years. One of her current projects is the La Guardia Airport in New York – wait for the finished project – it’s going to be a utopia of modern, open air and fresh light. With Alba gone are the days of utilitarian, white walls. Alba’s desire is to blend functionality with art and she does this well too earning prestigious American Institute of Architects awards as she has gone along.

     As good as this is, what makes Alba unique and why TBOWIT asked her to present was her leadership in taking her former company, GS&P, from a domestic construction firm to an international construction firm. The process started with Alba convincing GS&P leadership to follow her and her desire to build the Clinica Delgado in Lima, Peru. Alba took us on an in depth tour of the process behind her selection and successful completion of this project. Here’s a link to the hospital website so you can get a glimpse. It’s stunning! From this successful launch point, Alba has designed hospitals in the Caribbean and Latin America.

    As Alba spoke, she weaved in lessons learned from the challenges presented with each project and she talked about challenges both in terms of the scope of work, but also in dealing with different cultures and customers. One phrase she often repeated was, “Know your stuff”.  She gave an excellent tutorial not only on working with an international project, but how to work on an international project with inputs coming from multiple countries. For example, the hospital in Lima for which she out competed 4 non-U.S. firms, had financing from France plus local investors, equipment from Germany, granite from Italy and so forth. Did we also say that the project was measured in metric! Another key take-a-way from Alba, “Trust”. Alba credits her ability to establish trust with her various customers as one reason for her success. Whether Alba is wearing boots at a construction site or heels at a client’s office, she treats everyone with honesty and respect. Alba said that she gains satisfaction from seeing her drawings become real life and an even deeper satisfaction to give oftentimes very sick patients and their family beauty where they might not expect beauty.

    If we had an hour, we would rehash all of the take-a-ways from this wonderful example of a successful, female leader. In fact, it was disappointing when 1 o’clock rolled around as we could have stayed a lot longer. Alba has come a long way from being one of only 5 female architecture students in a class of 125 males. Everyone who steps into one of Alba’s creations might not know her name, but the walls and designs of her buildings sing her praises.


  • 30 Nov 2016 3:27 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    The short answer is A LOT. We had an amazingly insightful presentation at the TBOWIT August 2016 lunch with Cory Shade, EVP, General Counsel and Secretary of Perry Ellis International. I found it amazing because I did not know half of what it takes to protect one’s brand overseas. What a resource it was to have Cory share Perry Ellis’ experiences.

    Perry Ellis International has over 30 brands including:  Perry Ellis®, Original Penguin® by Munsignwear®, Laundry by Shelli Segal®, Rafaella®, and on. Plus, Perry Ellis has licensing trademarks from third parties, including:  Nike®, and Jag® for swimwear, and Callaway®, PGA TOUR®, and Jack Nicklaus® for golf apparel.

    Perry Ellis International garners approximately $3.3B in global retail sales. To reach this point and to grow the company one has to begin with strong brands and expand strategically with strong justification of the trademarks. Cory works hard with her team and the other departments at Perry Ellis International to protect the company’s brands with both offensive and defensive filings because it’s all about the name, brand equity = your strength. A business’s most valuable asset is its trademark. Think of McDonald’s (golden arches), Coca-Cola (colors, bottle, font), or Kleenex.

    There are four basic pillars which all tie into financial considerations

    • ·         Choose a strong mark
    • ·         Use the mark
    • ·         Monitor/Watch mark
    • ·         Enforce against mark

    For each pillar Cory expanded the thought and gave great examples and in-depth details. I would write them here, but my notes are too chock full to type; it would take a long time. The best way to end is to say that as you expand overseas, you will need in-country experts because there are many layers and there are a lot of financial considerations.

    Let’s say it together, “Use your mark, Monitor your mark, Enforce your mark.” 


  • 26 May 2016 2:50 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    We are blessed to have Susie Hoeller, J.D., CITP, as a TBOWIT Board Member and if you missed TBOWIT’s May 2016 luncheon, you missed a highly educational presentation on TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Susie is a wealth of knowledge on the subject of TPP.

       Susie was able to break down this complex geo-political strategy and trade deal into meaningful segments and talk about Florida's opportunity to grow. Susie specifically mentioned the benefits to exporters, small businesses, supply chains, food safety, and services exporters. She also mentioned TPP's effects on e-commerce & digital freedom, intellectual property creation, environmental protections, first-ever disciplines (to avoid unfair competition), prioritizing of good governance, sustainable development & capacity-building. Susie also dedicated a portion of her presentation on criticisms of TPP including:  no anti-currency manipulation provisions, no climate change provisions, wage level disparities, & etc.  It was a very balanced presentation with lots of good nuggets of information.      

       In Susie's own words,

    "It is not perfect but there is no doubt that it will create new, higher paying jobs in Florida (nearly 50,000 by 2025 as projected by the Business Roundtable) and enable Tampa Bay businesses, large and small, to pursue success in exporting their goods, services, digital content and other intellectual property."

    Susie ended her presentation with a fun pop quiz involving the flags of the countries involved in TPP. Guess what! China is not one of them. Thank you Susie for taking this daunting trade agreement and making it accessible to us with humor and grace.


  • 24 Mar 2016 2:33 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Who was and is the first female harbor pilot in Florida?
    You would know the answer if you attended the TBOWIT March 2016 luncheon.
    It’s none other than Captain Carolyn Kurtz!

    To celebrate Women’s History Month we asked Capt. Kurtz to come and tell us her story. It was a great way to celebrate Capt. Kurtz and women’s history month, but in the end it was the audience who benefited as we learned A LOT about Capt. Kurtz, about being a harbor pilot, and about Port Tampa Bay.

    Not only was Capt. Kurtz the first female to pass the pilot test in Florida, but she was only the eighth female in the entire U.S.  In present time, there are about 1,200 pilots and only 30 are women, but there are more females entering maritime schools.

    What does a harbor pilot do?
    A harbor pilot takes charge of a large ocean going vessel close to a port and brings the vessel safe to berth and vice versa. These vessels are longer than a skyscraper!

    How does a pilot get onboard?
    A pilot gets a boat ride to the vessel, a rope ladder is dropped, the pilot climbs the ladder and voilà – the pilot is on board. Sounds simple, but with waves and wind, it can be tricky!

    What is a typical work schedule?
    2 weeks on (24/7) & 2 weeks off

    Capt. Kurtz during part of her presentation showed a really cool slide deck of pictures that were taken of a few recent jobs. It was impressive!

    As Capt. Kurtz explained in the maritime industry, the pay is equal and the job of a pilot is a lone pursuit. Any failure or success is attributed to the licensed person and not on anyone’s gender. Of the thousands of jobs that she has had only a handful have been negative experiences most of which were due to ignorance and confusion and were not mean or malicious. In anything, the crew members are curious and make for interesting encounters.

    Of course we want to hear one of these negative stories! Actually, the story can be entitle Success is the Best Revenge. Early in Capt. Kurtz’s career when she was a chiefmate, she received some pushback from a captain. Eventually, she left that company. Years later when Capt. Kurtz was a harbor pilot here in Tampa, she got the job to bring in a vessel for this same captain. The captain’s face could not register the fact that Capt. Kurtz brought in his vessel safely, called out the speeds, knew where that vessel was at every moment in that channel, and made a text book perfect docking. That captain had to give Capt. Kurtz her due!

    Another funny story, had to do with the time Capt. Kurtz piloted a disabled vessel that had had an engine fire and there was no operable toilet. That’s a story you have to hear in person so you can laugh along.

    Capt. Kurtz has a long bio which I will past below. Just know that Capt. Kurtz is the real deal. If you ever get the chance to shake her hand – do it!


    (picture - Capt. Kurtz bottom left with the TBOWIT Board) 



    Captain Carolyn Kurtz is one of the few pilots working for the Tampa Bay Pilots Association. Originally from New York, Captain Kurtz graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 1986. She immediately joined Maritime Overseas Corporation as third officer, obtained an unlimited master’s license in 1993 and sailed until 1994. In 1995, she became the first woman to enter the training program to become a harbor pilot in the State of Florida. She graduated in the  class of 1986 with only 10 percent female, which helped prepare her to be the sole woman during months at sea, including the Persian Gulf in 1987-88 during the Iran-Iraq War.

    The Homeland Security Department acknowledged her skill with an appointment to its Navigation Safety Advisory Council, made up of civilian maritime professionals. Captain Kurtz has previously served as an FHPA director and was co-manager of the Tampa Bay Pilots Association from 2007-2009. She has been recognized as a “Woman of Distinction” by the Girl Scouts; and in 2010, received the “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” Award from the Jewish Museum of Florida. She is also a guest instructor at MITAGS and Maritime Pilots Institute. In 2012 she was the recipient of the Tampa Bay OWIT's Person of the Year.

  • 28 Jan 2016 12:38 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    This thought provoking topic was presented at TBOWIT's January 2016 lunch by Dr. Thomas L. Ainscough, Associate Professor, Marketing at USF St. Petersburg Kate Tiedemann College of Business. CSV, corporate shared value, goes above and beyond a company’s typical CSR, corporate social responsibility position. CSV is social responsibility that is grafted into all parts of a corporation enhancing corporate success.  In the past, a company would throw some money into being a business that had corporate social responsibility. Studies named by Dr. Aisncough showed that the benefit to the bottom line was negligible at best and varied across industries.

    CSV is an all-encompassing position that a company takes to promote citizenship, philanthropy, and sustainability.

    CSV means:

    • ·         Corporate shared values with economic and social benefits
    • ·         Joint corporate and community value creation
    • ·         Integral to competing and to profit maximization
    • ·         Company specific and internally generated
    • ·         Realigns the entire company budget.

    That’s great you say! How does it work in the real world?

    Dr. Ainscough gave an interesting case study involving Cisco vendor system in Hong Kong. Cisco’s statement reads, “We expect our suppliers to meet the same high standards on ethics, labor rights, health, safety, & environment that we apply to our own people.”

    Cisco applied their CSV to this particular supply chain in five areas:  Design/Development, Planning/Ordering, Sourcing/Making, Delivering, & End of Life. For example with Design/Development, Cisco works with and checks the following with their vendors:  Improvement in energy efficiency, Reduction of product packaging, and Design ease of recycling. Cisco is not just concerned about the production process, but also the people. Some of the items that Cisco checks for in a vendor include:  How many overtime hours are worked, How many consecutive days without a break, & How many toilet breaks allowed. There are over 1,400 items involved in Cisco’s CSV plan with vendors. A similar check is done throughout each area of Cisco’s operation across all business units.

    CSV is corporate shared values threaded throughout a company’s budget shaping how a company forms and operates. Studies cited by Dr. Ainscough show that the stock valuation of companies with a CSV plan in place outperform the S&P 500 over a ten year period. It’s worth checking out for your company and your people!


  • 16 Dec 2015 1:48 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Even though it was a grey, rainy day, the TBOWIT group had fun this past November 19th on the Bay Spirit as we took a tour of Port Tampa Bay. PTB's Raul Alfonso, CCO, Wade Elliott, VP of Marketing & Business Development, as well as TBOWIT's own Christyna Doege, Marketing Coordinator, led a lively tour of the Port.  Guests were filled in on all of the exciting developments at the port and got to see some vessels working at various terminals. Never one to disappoint, Christyna gave useful insights on all of the passing terminals along the way. Who knew so much was going on at the Port! Guests left full of information and full of good food and beverages.


      Here are two fun pictures. One is of the Carnival Paradise coming down the channel carrying all of those lucky passengers on a cruise. It so happens that Christyna knew someone on board the ship who took the second picture of some of the attendees as the two ships passed each other. Fun!




  • 16 Nov 2015 3:58 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    To me Cuba is a mysterious place. I have heard a lot about the island, but at the same time I do not know much about it. Do you have the same feeling? All that has changed for me after attending the special TBOWIT luncheon with José María Viñals, Partner and Director of International Operations at Lupicinio International Law Firm, Head of Cuban Desk and his presentation Cuba Today: Current U.S. Regulations and how they align against the reality of law and business climate in Cuba

    If you want to know what you can and what you cannot do in Cuba – he is your man! Since Mr. Viñals, has worked with companies doing business in Cuba for 20 years, he has boots on the ground knowledge of what companies face doing business in Cuba.

    Did you know that Cuba imports 98% of their food and even though Cuba is famous for their rum and cigars, they have to import the rum bottles and cigar boxes? For every dollar exported, Cuba imports 3 dollars – a huge problem! For example, they import steel and all farm machinery. Also, they import about 100k barrels of oil per day from Venezuela. On top of that, 43% of the Cuban economy is tourism.

    This is interesting – an investor can own 100% of his/her company in the special economic zone, Mariel.  One catch, is that the Cuban government is trying to rebuild industry so, your business has to be a priority to the government. To encourage growth, a company is tax exempt for the first 8 years and after 8 years, the company pays 15% of profits. In Mariel, a company is tax exempt for the first 10 years and then the company pays 12% of profits.  The client base is pretty stable in that the company derives its approval to exist from the Cuban government and the client is also the Cuban government.  The country has a large, well-educated and qualified workforce.  Cuba is considered to be a secure legal country after enacting a 1996 investment law which tied legal certainty to attracting FDI.  A company is protected from direct and indirect meddling and Cuba is obliged to follow foreign arbitration. Cuba has signed onto 62 international treaties and follows the dictates of arbitration courts in Paris and Stockholm.

    What are the cons? Why are companies afraid of Cuba?
    According to Mr. Viñals, a company cannot just go there and do anything. The business has to be aligned with the priorities established with the Cuban government. If you change your board, the company needs prior approval. To hire an employee, a company has to go to a Cuban agency which selects 3 to 4 candidates. The US sanctions are the biggest hindrance. The sanctions affect investment power as well as technology since your product cannot have or use more than 10% US technology.

    Here is another interesting facet, all of Cuba’s expenses and income are rounded into one global government account. Therefore, another hindrance to doing business in Cuba is the need for the company to have large amounts of solvency. Mr. Viñals gave the following example. There was a Russian company who hadn’t been paid for a while. The company met with Cuban officials who explained that they would be paid, but for the moment money had been diverted to help restore the island after a hurricane and the Russian company would just have to wait. The Russian company was eventually paid.

    Another deterrent is the currency situation. There are two currencies - a local peso and a convertible peso and the country has 5 official exchange rates! It’s rather confusing so imagine if you were the accountant because the government wants each company to show its profits in both currencies! The government also wants a 5 year forecast!

    This is just a small sampling of what Mr. Viñals had to offer in his presentation. There was so much offered. If we could have sat there all afternoon, we would have.

    Mr. Viñals ended by saying the following –

    What can you do in Cuba right now?

    1)      Protect your brands and copyrights – register them with the government
    Do some market research – get to know Cuban values
    3)      Get your foot in the door with some type of business even if it’s not your core business

    4)      Opportunity, Opportunity, Opportunity.


  • 02 Sep 2015 10:56 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    How much do you know about Uruguay?

    If you were at the August TBOWIT luncheon you know a lot more and you are impressed!

    Theresa Rice, the PR Representative in the U.S. for Uruguay XXI, the country’s investment and export promotion agency spoke about Uruguay to the delight of the TBOWIT audience.

    Did you know that Uruguay produces 13.6 million liters of wine a year? On top of that, Uruguay is the first country in South America with traceability built into their supply chain.  This means that in the case of wine, you can know down to the piece of land where the grape were grown that went into the making of the wine. In the case of beef, you can know the specific cow that gave you that piece of meat that you are eating.  Speaking of which, all cows and lambs in Uruguay are grass fed, the ultimate in organic. Uruguay is the ONLY southern hemisphere country to produce caviar. The sturgeon fish that produce the caviar are farmed in large canals with fresh water flowing naturally. Uruguay is the 7th largest producer of caviar and because of its location in the southern hemisphere, fresh caviar reaches the market at the peak of caviar season. One’s caviar can also be traced to its origin.  Uruguay holds the title to the best olive oil outside of Europe and the 8th worldwide. Uruguay is also the 6th largest rice exporter.

    As far as population, Uruguay has about 3.4 million residents and 2.8 million tourists. One challenge is to extend the tourist season and one means is to build a convention center.  Another challenge is to improve the roads and rails which they are doing by encouraging public-private investment. On that front, last year they had $2.75 billion (US) in FDI. Uruguay is the only country in South America to have a free port and airport.

    Half of Uruguay’s’ energy comes from renewable sources. They have the largest percentage of wind produced energy in the world. On the IT frontier, every child in Uruguay is given a laptop. Uruguay has more fiber optic cable laid to homes than the US and their download speed is faster. In fact, 98% of households have the internet. Plus, there is free wi-fi throughout the country..

    Uruguay is a small country with a stable social and political system.  Public education is free. Uruguay does not compete on costs. Uruguay focuses on value-added services such as financial services, IT. Uruguay is an easy entrance to the Mecrosur, the sub-regional bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

    This is just a small sampling of the information offered at the luncheon. There was also a lively question and answer session after Mrs. Rice’s presentation. Everyone left with a better understanding of Uruguay and all it has to offer.

    Going back to wine, Mrs. Rice was brought a bottle of wine to be raffled off and the lucky winner was Selma Canas.








  • 16 Jun 2015 12:35 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Are humans different across the world when it comes to business and money?

    Is this person rude because she is from Fill-In-The-Blank-Country or just because she is old?


    May luncheon speaker, Holly P. Thomas, gave a very informative presentation on the psychology of money and how that impacts your work. Holly did an excellent job of drawing in the audience through the use of examples, humor, and audience participation. From Holly's studies, she has found that humans as an aggregate tend to have certain money hang-ups. By country, these universal truths take their own shape. Topics included: loss aversion, belief systems, negotiating, the endowment effect, time, & active listening. For example, most people are motivated by not wanting to lose. In North America, that typically means money. In Asia, that typically means loss of face/dignity.  Holly offered helpful tips as well, such as, if you are dealing with someone in India, it would be a good strategy to negotiate the timing of a deal first before the actual deal itself as people from India tend to be less sensitive to time.  Holly had lots of good information in her presentation. Too much to write here!  Holly said it best, if you are not aware of your money/business beliefs, you will think that others have the same and that can be very bad for business!





  • 25 Feb 2015 12:33 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    *The below summary of the January 2015 lunch was provided by guest columnist, Rachel Palmer.  Especially interesting are the six underlying conditions that lead to instability.*


    On Thursday, January 29, 2015 TBOWIT had the January Lunch Event at Centre Club 123 South WestShore  Blvd. Tampa, FL 33609. Presented by Commodore, Richard Menhinick, Royal Australian Navy. Commodore Menhinick has been in the Navy for 39 years now, but he has lived in Tampa for only 2 years. Out of the 5,000+ people in Central Command at MacDill Air Force, only 100-200 deal with International problems. He thinks that the Central Command at MacDill is great, because they are the only group of its kind in any Central Command office around the world. The officers on his team come from 25 different nations, including: Europe, Asia, Pacific and Central Americas, Afghanistan, China, South Korea and one about to join from Japan.  His team creates Strategic Analysis 3 times a year; these reports go to Washington, Pentagon and even other countries.  Six of the top underlining conditions his team looks at for these reports include: Economy, Religion, Demographics, Resources, Governance, and Artificial Boarders. He also talked about threats around the world including: weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical weaponry, terrorism, and piracy.


    The Middle East
    The Middle East is always in the news for something
    His team tries not to concentrate on the countries themselves when dealing  
              with the problems but what causes the problem.
          Six of the top underlining conditions his team looks at:
    Economy, it is often over looked in Strategic Analysis
    They have weak economies
    Syria and Iraq have destroyed their countries trading
    530 Million people in Central Command covered areas
    Most of the countries have a very poor education system
    The two countries with the worst conditions are Yemen and Afghanistan
    Major issues with food scarcity
    Lack of water is a large threat for many countries
    70% of the food in the Middle East is imported from the Western 
     Most countries in Middle East have a heavy taint of corruption
    He read off an article his team wrote about corruption and its impact to
                        the communities
    Corruption is in every level of life, not just in the government
    The members of these societies deal with corruption on a daily basis
                Artificial Boarders
    Some countries built these artificial boarders to keep certain ethnic
                          groups out

    Weapons of mass destruction, nuclear and chemical weaponry
    Israel and Afghanistan, great deal of instability
    They call ISIS, DASH
    Everyone always focuses on “Terrorism in the Sea”
    Mainly it deals with drugs
    The U.S Navy was really good at preventing piracy, but it was never
                            publicized  so they stopped trying to prevent it
    Pakistan to Tanzania is the drug route by water
    The real danger in piracy is where the money goes

    Human Rights Violations
    There are almost as many confrontations as there are countries in his
                           area concentrated on about 20 countries
    The two top confrontations 
    Iran and Saudi Arabia
    Pakistan and India
                  Issues in Iraq and Syria
    Iraq: the government is not involved to stop it
    Syria: more complicated, they need to work out a compromise
    The Central Command wants to beat Dash and stop the Civil Wars




About us

The Tampa Bay Chapter (TBOWIT), established in 1997, is one of more than 30 + chapters worldwide under the umbrella of OWIT, the Organization of Women in International Trade, a dynamic organization created to enhance the status and interests of women in the field of international business.

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