Focus Forward 2016 reinvigorated an historic bond between Panama City and the city of New Orleans.

The business summit was held in New Orleans Oct. 13-14 and is the first major function Panama Gateway International Association has hosted since reorganizing its leadership structure last year and relaunching its website earlier this year. The event attracted more than 75 local, regional and international participants. Attendees enthusiastically connected during the two days of outstanding programs, luncheons and receptions.

Local city leadership provided by Greater New Orleans, Inc. and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana allowed the event to broaden business bonds necessary to effectively expand opportunities in the trade and logistics industries of Panama City and New Orleans. A blend of presentations ranged from international culture to risk management and insurance, and from economic development to medical tourism.

Among those presenting were: Ricardo Zubieta, Chief of Staff, Ministry of Economy and Finance, Republica of Panama; Janine Moreau Mansour, Commercial Director of the Port of New Orleans;  Aristides Chiaritti, COO, Colon Import and Export;  Paul Aucoin, Executive Director of the Port of South Louisiana and John Coronado, Commercial Counselor of the U.S. Embassy in Panama;  and Saul Newsome and Mark Spansel, Co-Chairs Super Region 2016 (Louisiana). There was general agreement that the panel discussions and presentations were outstanding and inspiring, said Panama Gateway Executive Director Sandra Champion.

“Together, we identified new opportunities for mutual cooperation, investment, and development,” said conference chair Jackie Brettner. “We are enthusiastic about future cooperation between the New Orleans and Panama Jazz Festivals, and our cities’ cutting edge vision for expansion into field of medical tourism. The connections made and the conversations started are already bearing fruit!”

As a result of the conference, artist Olga Sinclair of Panama, considered one of the country’s most important creative figures, has committed to expanding her international presence by undertaking a new art project. She will partner with local Parish schools in New Orleans in 2017. Her program ‘Painting in Public Spaces’ has been developed and presented through the Olga Sinclair Foundation.

Panama Gateway Chairman John Wallace was delighted with the attendance and enthusiasm of business and cultural leaders attending the conference and praised Brettner, the conference chair who also serves as General Counsel for Panama Gateway, for planning, organizing and chairing the event. “Jackie, a resident of New Orleans and native of Panama, was instrumental in bringing together sponsors and presenters with both depth and breadth of knowledge of the two cities,” said Wallace.

“The event further forged deep relationships across a variety of industries,” he added.  “Attendees focused on bridging the gaps and developing relationships that allowed business opportunities to develop in a relaxed and informative atmosphere. Besides that, fun was had by all!  The city of New Orleans, with its blend of culture, cuisine, tourism and international business community, is an amazing city to experience. Our members, both old and new, are always wonderful to be with. We look forward to expanding the event next year.”

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