Opportunities for architecture and design firms are abundant in Brazil, but the best way to take advantage of those opportunities is to have boots on the ground, says Andrew Goldberg, the American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) managing director, government relations and outreach, who returned from a five-day trade mission to Brazil Oct. 10th.

“The main thing we learned was that if you want to do work in places like Brazil, you really have to commit, and you need to be there… You need to be there on the ground, building relationships,” he says.

The trade mission, funded through a three-year grant initiative from the Dept. of Commerce, was designed to help the nine-participating architecture firms—ranging from small specialty shops to mid-sized firms—do just that.

During the trip, American architects and AIA officials met with local and national architecture associations, regional government groups, and the national licensing organization to better understand how to work in rapidly developing countries like Brazil.

The group focused primarily on Rio de Janeiro and Recife, Brazil—two cities seeing rapid development spurred by the sports arenas and supporting infrastructure for the World Cup in 2014, and the Summer Olympics in 2016. “There was a real opportunity and interest in some of the stuff that American architects bring—the know-how in terms of sustainability, in terms of master planning,” Goldberg says.

For example, architects in Recife were interested in talking about master planning, Goldberg explains. “How do you create in this very fast-growing region a very livable community that has transportation networks and good solid infrastructure?”

Jessica Salmoiraghi, AIA’s director of federal relations and counsel, notes that AIA and a group of architecture firms went to India in the fall of 2012 with a similar mission, also under the auspices of the Dept. of Commerce. “AIA is really trying to find markets that make sense where American architects can partner abroad, and that is something that AIA has been very focused on.”