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Muma Donor to Create a Tampa Think Tank Dealing with South American Trade Issues

Donor with Moez Limayem

TAMPA (Jan. 13, 2017) The best way to create groundbreaking pro-trade polices involving the burgeoning markets in Latin America is by taking little steps, at least at first, said E.J. Otero, CEO and chairman of the board of the Course of Action Foundation.

That means raising money and making donations for scholarships at the University of South Florida's Muma College of Business to spark the interest of more students looking to study South American business connections. Over the past couple of years, the foundation has donated $15,000 to the cause, the most recent this week with a check for $10,000.

"The foundation is dedicated to providing scholarships to students in the business school," said Otero, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, "to help students with an interest in South America."

He said part of the scholarship money is used to pay for internships in which business students will work for South American corporations. The foundation's merit-based scholarships are awarded to full-time juniors and seniors with a preference given to graduates of Tampa Bay area high schools.

The second foundation goal is to create a Tampa-based think tank that will utilize university research to tackle issues that exist between U.S. business and business interests in South America.

"The think tank program is committed to research and providing a stage for economic ideas advocating responsible private and public policy solutions," says the organization's website. "Think tank programs will be geared towards exploring innovative ways of implementing pro-trade policies with countries that have signed Free Trade Agreements with the United States. These countries, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Panama, are some of the fastest growing economies in the world."

Part of the focus will include making Tampa a player in trade, Otero said. Eventually, the think tank will address issues between Latin American and the state of Florida and beyond that, the United States. Foundation representatives already have reached out to legislators and private industry for input and help in the project aimed at breaking new ground in international trade.

"It's important to emphasize that Latin America is a fairly open market," he said. "We believe it is time. "We have one of the largest universities here in Tampa, but with no think tank to complement its resources. This would be the first think tank oriented toward Latin American business issues.

"It's mind-boggling," he said, "that we don't have one here already."

Otero said the project will result in publication of policy papers using input from experts in the field, many of whom will be local and working directly with the foundation, including USF professors and students. The foundation felt so strongly about the connection between itself and the university, it has asked Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem to serve on its board.

Limayem said any efforts to foster business relationships between nations is good for everyone.

"We are grateful for the contributions from the Course of Action Foundation," said Limayem. "This goes a long way in helping international business, finance and economics students understand the complex trade connections of the largely untapped markets in Latin America. But beyond that, the altruistic mission of the foundation benefits not just USF but the community at large.

"The foundation's goal of creating a think tank that immerses itself in public policy issues between the U.S. and South America is a perfect fit for the Muma College of Business, USF and Tampa. We're looking forward to participating in the project and doing whatever it takes to make it a great success."