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New Business Conference Aims To Strengthen Houston’s International Trade

Called Consular Forum, business conference will complement annual consular ball.


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It’s no secret – at least not to Houstonians – that Houston is an international city.

Twenty-eight percent of people here were born in a foreign country.

Ninety-two countries have consular offices here, more than in all but two cities in the nation.

To honor the many foreign representations here, the Houston Junior Chamber of Commerce has held a consular ball every year since 1952.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker announces the new Consular Forum business conference at City Hall.

Last year, the city partnered with the junior chamber for the ball. But for Mayor Annise Parker, that wasn’t enough.

“We realized that we could put a great event on and we did last year,” she said. “But we weren’t in the ball business, we were about business. So, doing the consular ball at a very high level but also pairing it with an international business conference allows us to tap into our strengths and the two build off of each other.”

Parker spoke at a press conference announcing the new business conference.

The conference and the ball together will be called the Consular Forum and take place back-to-back this fall.

The focus this year will be on the Arctic countries of Canada, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland.

Parker said the conference will feature both companies that are active in that part of the world and companies that want to grow their business there.

“The conference is designed to foster a high level of dialogue related to develop in the Arctic and the technological, social, environmental policy and regulatory inputs that are driving development,” she said. “We can’t do it just through the business community and with the business community. We need the consulates representing those countries fully engaged.”

Houston doesn’t just have many foreign citizens; local companies are engaged in a lot of international trade. The Port of Houston is America’s largest foreign tonnage port, and the Bayou City is, of course, home to many oil and gas companies.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker poses with consuls from the Arctic countries represented at this fall’s Consular Forum.

“There are 3,000 companies today that do business – Houston companies that do business – overseas,” Parker said. “The amount of international cargo that flows through the port of Houston is in the, you know, billions of dollars, so we have a responsibility to make sure that we continue to grow that business network.”

Mica Mosbacher, the honorary consul for Iceland in Houston, said she likes the idea of the new consular forum.

“We hope that by furthering dialogues with other countries, particularly during the business conference,” Mosbacher said, “that they are able to network and that the city can showcase its attractiveness and qualities to encourage other business possibly to headquarter here.”

The business conference will take place on Oct. 17 and the consular ball on Oct. 18 at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

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