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Monday, November 30, 2009

Brazil, NH hoping connection pays off

Eduardo A. de Oliveira

The two hottest business trends that Dawn Wivell, a director at New Hampshire’s International Trade Resource Center, always hears about when she travels overseas are sustainability and green technology.

Both should benefit next week when, thanks to Craig Cassarino, a local environmental businessman, New Hampshire will sign a Sister State agreement with Tocantins, Brazil’s youngest and fasted growing state. The partnership includes the exchange of recycling and green technologies, and a mutual cooperation in renewable forms of energy, such as engines for power generators that run on vegetable oil.

For Cassarino, it all started in 1991, during a – let’s say – good mid-life crisis.

Single and having just sold his Milford company, the Recycling Development Corp. of America, Cassarino went to Rio de Janeiro to relax on the beach.

“Brazil felt like going home to me, it was a whole new adventure,” Cassarino said in his Bedford office at Leonardo Technologies Inc.

He was having a great experience in Rio, but soon learned that the money was in Sao Paulo, the country’s commercial capital. He headed there and started what he recalls “an investigative work,” as he did not speak Portuguese and knew nobody in Sao Paulo.

Cassarino then worked introducing American companies to Brazilian counterparts interested in doing business in the U.S. About 18 years later, he was travelling all over Brazil as one of New Hampshire’s 15 commercial consuls, a type of business ambassador.

“If you’re starting in a new sector, such as sustainability, isn’t it wonderful that we can also immediately have a relationship with one of the fasted growing countries in the world?” Wivell asked.

According to Wivell, Brazil is New Hampshire’s 16th strongest trade partner. With 2,200 clients from 215 countries, the International Trade Resource Center goal is to help American companies to export their products abroad.

On Dec. 9, Gov. John Lynch will host a meeting with Carlos Henrique Amorim, governor of Tocantins, a 20-year-old state with a vast range of natural resources and a relatively relaxed set of business regulations. To refresh the minds of TV aficionados, Tocantins was the shooting locale for the 18th edition of CBS’s “Survivor.”

With the Tocantins visiting committee will be nine Brazilian officials, including a city major and Júlio Cesar Rezende, the founder of Origine, a farm concept that draws natural resources while utilizing green forms of energy, such as solar panels.

“We’re glad that after Craig’s 30-year research, Origine was recognized as the adequate environment to apply his biotechnology projects. Our farm sits in the central part of Brazil, and offers the best natural logistics, including land dimension and the world’s largest fluvial island,” said Rezende, a lawyer turned into environmental expert, who visited New Hampshire early this year.

For nine years, Rezende mapped all of his farm’s 100,000 acres, from documenting all the wildlife to discovering the best plantation areas, and planning for a new sustainable model. Origine already has businesses deals with Guatemala, Spain, Portugal and China.

But what is in it for the average Joes, here and in Brazil?

The benefits for citizens of both nations, Cassarino and Rezende said, are economic development and the creation of thousands of jobs by manufacturing products with an eco-friendly stamp. Another example: a Brazilian farm that grows hundreds of chickens already ordered about 150 vegetable-run generators.

“About two to three months a year they have power outages, and can lose up to 20 percent of their chickens,” said Cassarino.

Cassarino estimates that after 30 months, it can be recovered in fuel and production savings, while drastically slashing carbon emissions.

The New Hampshire-Tocantins partnership has an academic arm as well. The University of New Hampshire is developing an Ecotourism graduate program with Origine based on a concept of sustainable tourism.

On Dec. 10, the Brazilian officials will visit UNH, plus the huge Rochester landfill that is the source of methane used to produce 80 percent of the Durham campus’ power, before they fly to Texas. The South American officials will also attend the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

For Cassarino, the ceremony with Gov. Lynch just represents a kick-off of what may come.

“When I was in graduate school a professor said to me: ‘Economics and Ecology have the same root, ‘eco,’ which is a Greek word that means to manage one’s household. The study of ecology is the study of relationships, and from a business standpoint I’m always looking at how everything is related to everything else,” he said.

Eduardo A. de Oliveira is a columnist for The Telegraph. Originally from Brazil, Eduardo is a 33-year-old Nashua resident. His column appears every other Monday on the front page of The Telegraph.