The Brazil-Florida Business Council, Inc. ("BFBC") is an independent, not-for-profit business association based in Tampa, Florida. The BFBC was established in 2014 to forge closer ties between the business communities of Brazil and Florida by fostering bilateral trade and investment opportunities in both regions. The BFBC will provide a forum to nurture the exchange of ideas, foster networking opportunities, facilitate and drive economic growth. As a non-governmental association, the BFBC is supported by membership dues.
The BFBC is run by a volunteer board of directors composed of representatives from member companies.
This extraordinary group of influential business leaders and civic leaders is composed of past honorees of the Brazil-Florida Business Awards.
Chieko Aoki serves as Chief Executive Officer of Blue Tree Hotels & Resorts. Mrs. Aoki founded Blue Tree Hotels & Resorts and launched its brand in 1997. She works towards the development of economic and cultural relations between Brazil, United States, Japan and Latin America. She participates actively in philanthropic and social activities to which she contributes with fundraising and resources. Throughout her professional life, she worked around the world in places such as the US, Asia and Europe. Read more.
Guilherme Benchimol is the Chairman of our board of directors of XP Inc., a position he has held since August 2019. Mr. Benchimol has over 20 years’ experience in the financial services market. He founded the XP group in 2001 and has been its chief executive officer since 2001. Currently, Mr. Benchimol also serves on the boards of XP Brazil as the Chairman since 2018. Mr. Benchimol holds a bachelor’s degree in business economics from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. Read more.
Bob Buckhorn was sworn in as the 58th mayor of the City of Tampa, the nation's 53th largest city, on April 1, 2011. In the past three years, Mayor Buckhorn focused on the city and region’s economic leadership, stability, and most importantly, business opportunity. Today, local government is smarter, urban development is centered on the riverfront, and Tampa is recognized as the competitive city it is. Our continued success in those efforts will set the stage for how and why we build in tomorrow’s Tampa. Read more.
José Luis Cutrale
José Luis Cutrale is the Chairman and CEO of Sucocitrico Cutrale Ltd, one of the world’s largest producers of oranges and orange juice. Mr. Cutrale has extensive experience in the agribusiness after over the 45 years in the worldwide citrus business. Mr. Cutrale is a member of the Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce, Administrative Board of Coca Cola Femsa, Advisory Board of Spal, CitrusBR (Brazilian Association of Citrus Exporters) and CDES (Council Development Social and Economic).
David Neeleman founded Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras S.A in 2008 and serves as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Neeleman has been the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Azul SA, the holding company of Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras S.A since January 2008. He founded JetBlue Airways Corporation and served as Non-Executive Chairman from 2002 to May 15, 2008 and Chief Executive Officer from August 1998 to 2007. Read more.
Astronaut Marcos Pontes was born in the city of Bauru, state of São Paulo. He is an R1 Aviator Lieutenant Colonel of the Brazilian Air Force, an Aeronautical Engineer by the Aeronautical Technological Institute (ITA), a Master of Systems Engineering by the Naval Postgraduate School of California (United States). A member of the 1998 astronaut class of NASA, Marcos Pontes is the only Brazilian to go into space and the first professional astronaut to officially represent a Southern Hemisphere country in space. Read more.
Joc C. O'Rourke has been the Chief Executive Officer and President at The Mosaic Company since August 5, 2015. Mr. O'Rourke served as Chief Operating Officer at The Mosaic Company from August 13, 2012 to August 5, 2015 and as its Executive Vice President of Operations from January 5, 2009 to August 5, 2015. He is responsible for Mosaic's global mining and chemical processing operations. Mr. O’ Rourke has over 25 years of experience in operating global mining operations and has spearheaded a variety of large scale expansion projects. Read more.
Ozires Silva is the founder of EMBRAER, the world’s third largest manufacturer of commercial jets. As one of the first generation of executives who built world-class competitive enterprises in Brazil, he led the way for today’s impressive roster of Brazilian CEOs, and has since played leading roles in both government and academia. Silva was born in Bauru, São Paulo state. He graduated from the Escola de Aeronáutica do Campo dos Afonsos in Rio de Janeiro as military pilot. He then served in the Brazilian Air Force for four years in the Amazon rainforest region. In 1962, Silva graduated from the Aeronautics Technological Institute as an aeronautical engineer. He went on to earn a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1966. Read more.
Gary J. Spulak serves as President of Embraer Aircraft Holding, Inc. which is Embraer’s wholly owned U.S. subsidiary. In this role, he is responsible for the oversight of Embraer’s operating companies in the United States encompassing 1,400 employees and eight locations. Spulak’s career with Embraer began at the time the company was just emerging as a player in the regional aviation industry. Read more.
Our advisory board is composed of distinguished members of the private, public and academic communities who bring unique knowledge and skills which augment the knowledge and skills of the formal board of directors in order to more effectively guide the organization.
Ambassador João Mendes Pereira
A career diplomat for 28 years, Ambassador João Mendes Pereira took over the position as Consul-General of Brazil in Miami on October 11, 2018. Prior to that, Ambassador Joao Mendes Pereira was the Head of Protocol to the Ministry of External Relations. Ambassador João Mendes Pereira also served Brazil at the Brazilian Mission to the European Union in Brussels, at the Brazilian Embassy in Lisbon and at the Permanent Delegation of Brazil to ALADI and Mercosur in Montevidéu. Read more.
Felipe Berer is a Partner in the Global Commercial Disputes at the Miami office of Reed Smith. He is considered a go-to, trusted advisor for Brazilian clients in the United States. Fluent in Portuguese and admitted to practice in both the U.S. and Brazil, Felipe has been recognized by leading publications, including Chambers and Partners, for his more than 18 years of experience representing clients on cross-border matters involving Brazil and other jurisdictions in Latin America. Read more.
Santiago Corrada officially began his position as President and Chief Executive Officer of Visit Tampa Bay in May of last year and provides local experience, management skills, industry knowledge, collaboration expertise and overall leadership ability as well as his passion for Tampa Bay. With more than 20 years of public service and management experience, Corrada most recently served as Chief of Staff for the City of Tampa. In this role, he coordinated and integrated the efforts of more than 50 City departments and divisions. Read more.
Thomas Eckschmidt is an engineer who holds an Executive MBA in finance from Business School São Paulo, Brazil. His corporate journey included work in twenty different countries before he launched a successful entrepreneurial career that includes twelve business awards, four patents filed, and eleven books published. A strong believer that business leaders and organizations can do well by doing good, Thomas has been promoting Conscious Capitalism since 2010. He launched a Conscious Capitalism chapter in Brazil and supported the launch of chapters in other countries. Read more.
Rick Homans is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Tampa Bay Partnership. Rick, a native of Boston, spent the last 32 years living in New Mexico where he served in the cabinet of Governor Bill Richardson, first as Secretary of Economic Development and subsequently as Secretary of Taxation and Revenue. In 2004, Rick spearheaded the development of the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, Spaceport America, and recruited Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic to base its world headquarters in New Mexico. Read more.
As Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Chris is responsible for the air service development, advertising, marketing, research, real estate, communications and government relations activities of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. Before joining Tampa International Airport, he spent three years as Assistant Vice President, Air Service Development for Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport with responsibility for passenger and cargo network development in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Read more.
Dr. Nastari is President and CEO of Datagro Consulting Ltd., one of the world’s leading consulting company specialized in agricultural markets, serving clients in 41 countries. Dr. Nastari holds M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Agricultural Economics, from Iowa State University. Was Professor of Economics at FGV – The Getúlio Vargas Foundation, in São Paulo, in undergraduate and graduate level courses (MBA, Masters and Doctoral programs) from 1984 to 2000. Read more.
Marcelo Souccar has provided software solutions to the professional services industry for more than two decades. He has a Bachelor in Law from the Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo (PUC-SP), an MBA with a specialization in IT from the University of Sao Paulo’s FIA Business School (FIA-USP) and an Master in Science of Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. In 2000, following a three-year stint at one of Brazil's largest law firms, Machado Meyer Sendacz e Opice, Souccar launched his first Venture, an IT consulting company for the legal industry. Read more.
Ronaldo Veirano is the founding partner of Veirano Advogados and is a highly regarded legal expert, recognized internationally for his statesmanship, facility with sophisticated legal issues and significant network of global contacts. Over the years, clients have sought his advice on a myriad of issues surrounding corporate law and operating in Brazil. He has served as an advisor to numerous corporations and their boards, along with governments and their officials from across the globe. An erudite and accomplished speaker, Mr. Veirano is frequently invited to address international audiences on a variety of complex legal subjects, trade issues and other topics that affect companies, countries and their growth. Read more.
Board of Directors
Founding President and Chairman
Born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil and former Executive Director of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce in New York, Sueli Bonaparte has devoted more than 30 years of her executive career to forging closer ties between the business communities of Brazil and the United States. In addition to innumerous accolades received from the private and civic institutions in U.S. and Brazil, Ms. Bonaparte was awarded the prestigious Foreign Policy Association Meritorious Honor Award (2010, New York) to recognize her immeasurable contributions to the establishment of a stronger relationship between Brazil and the United States. Read more.
Vice President / Secretary
Arnaldo Carrera is currently a Partner of Keppler Global, an advisory firm for high net worth families. He was formerly a founder and managing director at Strategic Business Alliance, a consulting firm that helped IT, manufacturing, agriculture and healthcare clients to enter or expand into the USA, Brazil, and China. He was also the co-founder and COO of TradePostUSA a digital publishing company. With over 30 years of experience in banking, technology, finance, media, and operations, he has served at the top executive levels at Safra National Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Deutsche Bank, and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Arnaldo is a seasoned entrepreneur having mentored and raised funds for several start-up companies. Read more.
Bernardo Piccolo P.A. CRS,CIPS,GRI,ABR,SFR is the leader of a residential and commercial real estate practice with 15 years of market experience in the Tampa Bay and surrounding area. With over 800 transactional parties assisted and $100+ millions in real estate sales, Bernardo Piccolo PA is within the top 1% in sales volume and units sold in the Tampa Bay region. Bernardo and his team specializes in domestic and international relocation, investment real estate, residential and commercial sales.
Otavio Carneiro focuses his work on outbound investment in Brazil and Latin America and inbound investment from Brazil in the United States. Otavio has assisted a number of clients in transactional and regulatory work in a variety of sectors, such as oil and gas (farm-in/farm-outs, drilling services, supply agreements etc.), infrastructure, IT, banking, mining, construction, shipping, real estate, and agriculture, among others. He concentrates his practice on cross border and domestic corporate and financing transactions, including acquisitions, divestitures, joint ventures, corporate reorganizations, and loan transactions involving foreign banks and multilateral agencies and Brazilian banks, such as the Brazilian Bank for National, Economic and Social Development (BNDES). Read more
Daniel Aguiar de Melo
Daniel Aguiar de Melo is a partner with A15 Investments, a Florida based company that specializes in educational investments. He started his career as a project engineer for commercial and residential construction in Brazil, then he joined the Whirlpool Group Brazil, as responsible for introduction of new products to the Brazilian market. After his experience in the construction and manufacturing sectors, Daniel joined educational business as a manager of a group of private high schools under the Objetivo System, Brazil’s largest educational holding.
Gonzalo Padron is Director of Marketing & Business Development, Latin America, Port Tampa Bay. Gonzalo has more than 20 years of sales and business development experience within the maritime transportation industry. His responsibilities include Port Tampa Bay's outreach and liaison with beneficial cargo owners and ocean carriers, with a particular focus on trade with Latin America. Gonzalo began his career working for ocean carriers Tecmarine Lines and Seaboard Marine, traveling the Caribbean and Latin America extensively. Prior to joining the Port Tampa Bay, he was employed by DHL Global Forwarding as Manager of Strategic Accounts, Datamyne as Business Development Manager - Maritime, and PIERS as Maritime Regional Manager. Read more.