Mexico Business / March 1999
By Larry Luxner
Mexico currently ranks as the 10th biggest exporting nation in the world, and the second-biggest trading partner of the United States -- ranking only behind Canada as a top buyer of U.S. goods and services. In 1998, U.S. manufacturers shipped $94 billion worth of goods to Mexico, more than to all other Latin American countries combined.
This year, the U.S. will ship Mexico a projected $95.2 billion in exports, while buying $113.2 billion worth of Mexican imports.
To keep those exports flowing across the Río Grande, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City has established the Ronald Brown Business Center. This facility, part of a $2.5 million renovation going on at the U.S. Trade Center in Mexico City, was inaugurated Jan. 20, and is open only to exporters of goods and services having more than 50% U.S. content.
"The concept of having this business center where states and compa-nies could have short-term leasing space was developed around the time of his death," Ann Bacher, the center's director, said in a phone interview. "Ron Brown came to Mexico a number of times, and we thought it would be a nice gesture to name the center after him."
The center has 12 executive offices and one conference room. All options are available for either short or long-term lease. New clients, including most of whom do not have a physical presence at the center, receive a complete business briefing and commercial intelligence overview by U.S. Foreign Commercial Service staff. Confirmed tenants include Enterprise Florida, the US/Mexico Chamber of Commerce, the Overseas Security Advisory Committee and the states of Georgia, New York, Virginia and New Jersey.
"The center provides an immediate presence in Mexico without the costs or aggravation normally associated with starting up a new office in a foreign country," Ann Bacher, the center's director, said in a phone interview. "We've made space in our building to provide these associations with our facilitation services so we can work better together. We like having them here with us because it inspires more cooperation."
Bacher, who has four prospective tenants on the waiting list, says the Ronald Brown Business Center "is a continuation of the U.S. government's focus on this market through NAFTA."
In fact, since NAFTA's implementation in 1994, U.S. exports to Mexico have jumped by 72%, with the fastest growth recorded by Wyoming, South Dakota and Alaska. The largest single exporter by far is Texas, with most of its $36.7 billion in 1997 exports to Latin America going to Mexico alone. Other important exporters to Mexico are California, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, New York and Ohio.
Currently, 28 individual states have trade offices in Mexico City, while two others offer trade management services.
Among the center's benefits:
* flexible lease terms, allowing exporters to pay only for what they need and use.
* modern, fully furnished offices offering immediate occupancy and professional support in one of Mexico City's prime business locations.
* private direct-line telecom equipment with voice mail, and conference rooms with videoconference capabilities.
* 24-hour building access.
* instant access to expertise by U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service specialists having potential contacts in both government and the private sector.
"We're trying to give total support to Florida-based companies in Mexico, and also help Mexican companies invest in Florida," says Ana Arroyo, trade specialist for Enterprise Florida, which was the first tenant to move into the Ron Brown Business Center. She says the center provides office space, phone lines, a computer and furniture. "We have access to all the library databases, and also receive help from trade specialists."
Arroyo, whose moved into the trade center last September, said Flor-ida Gov. Jeb Bush will head a delegation of Florida-based companies to Mexico this coming July; the visit is being organized by Enterprise Florida.
Under the embassy's Gold Key program, staffers will set up business appointments at the rate of $350 for the first day and $250 each day thereafter. ADS RepFind, a separate service to identify potential business partners, costs $250, while international company or partner profiles -- including data about prospective local customers -- costs $100. The center also offers custom-tailored market research covering business conditions as well as industry-specific information (price varies).
Other services include promotional campaign design and execution including brochure, database development, mailing and follow-up; website consultation, design and hosting; organization of commercial receptions including catering and beverage service; telemarketing to assure attendance by qualified targeted business contacts, and English-Spanish interpreters and translators.
For long-term clients, the center offers leases ranging from $1,000 a month for a standard office to $1,500 a month for an exterior office with a window.
"Unlike other 'business centers,' the Ronald Brown Business Center and its affiliation with the U.S. Trade Center and the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service provides immediate access to a professional staff with more than 25 years of trade promotion experience," says an embassy pamphlet. "With our experience, we may already know who your customers are."
The center's website, at http://www.uscommerce.org.mx, contains accurate information on the U.S. Trade Center, but hasn't yet been updated to reflect the name change to the Ronald Brown Business Center. Bacher says the website will be totally revamped in coming months.
For more information, contact Bacher by phone at +52-5-140-2600, by fax at +52-5-566-1115, or by e-mail at Ann.Bacher@mail.doc.gov.