Mexican investor trade group opens local chapter - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Mexican investor trade group opens local chapter

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Posted: Friday, September 28, 2012 9:51 pm

Frequently nowadays the violence, kidnappings and chaos in Mexico is referred to euphemistically as “the situation.”

It’s a terrible tragedy for the United States’ southern neighbor, plain and simple. At the same time, there’s no denying that “the situation” is boosting economic development north of the border, thanks to a flood of Mexican entrepreneurs streaming north in search of investment opportunities in addition to refuge.

A case in point is the newly formed Brownsville-South Padre Island Chapter of AEM, the Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos, a nonprofit trade association for Mexican nationals interested in doing business in the United States. AEM started 16 years ago in San Antonio. The group also now has chapters in Austin, Dallas and Houston.

Marco Saldivar, president of AEM Brownsville-South Padre Island, said the organization has been going through an “aggressive growth spurt” directly attributable to Mexico’s troubles and the dangerous impact on many in the country’s entrepreneurial class.

“It’s a dire situation, and we have people coming in and they’re investing a lot of money,” he said. “They’re opening businesses. Sometimes they don’t have knowledge of very basic things like the legal structure, the accounting, how to buy a house here, how to deal with the contracts, how to deal with the attorneys, what businesses to invest in, the immigration process.”

AEM was created by business people who had already navigated those straits to help “minimize the learning curve” for those who come later, Saldivar said.

“The best thing that can happen is for us to ensure that they’re successful,” he said. “It creates jobs. Their kids go to school. There’s an economic impact that all these people have, and at the moment they don’t have representation as a group. Everybody is off on their own. The idea here is to unite and to utilize not only the contacts here but also the chapters in San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Dallas.”

About a year ago AEM announced the creation of a Valley-wide chapter. That chapter soon had its hands full with just the Upper Valley, however, which justified started the new Lower Valley chapter, which officials announced Friday at a breakfast press conference at Rancho Viejo. Saldivar noted that Brownsville and McAllen are two very different markets.

“McAllen was very large are to cover with just one office, so what we did is we united Brownsville, Rancho Viejo and South Padre Island to represent the region,” he said.

Fred Rusteberg, IBC Bank president and CEO, said creation of the Brownsville-South Padre Island AEM chapter is timely considering the number of Mexican investors moving north and that Brownsville and the Valley potentially have much to gain from it investment. It’s important to help these newcomers find investment opportunities locally, he added.

“It helps us to provide a structure for investment to take our region economically to a different level,” Rusteberg said. “It’s been very successful and now they’re bringing it to this area. We have many people from Tampico, from Monterrey, from Mexico City, from all over the republic here. They’re very good citizens. This helps them to understand how to conduct business better.”

Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez called AEM “a wonderful group” and said the Lower Valley is very hospitable to business people from Mexico — and Central America and South American — due to the deep Latino influence here in terms of language and culture.

He’s hoping AEM will play a role in Brownsville’s downtown revitalization and expressed the wish to somehow coordinate AEM’s activities with those of the Texas South International Alliance, an economic development consortium whose members are San Antonio, San Marcos, Corpus Christi and — since March — Brownsville.

“I’m kind of hoping to integrate a lot of the different efforts all together as a community, because not only are they a professional group, they like to be very social and have a good time,” Martinez said. “That’s right down my alley. It doesn’t have to be stuffiness.”

Indeed, helping ease the social transition is another aspect of AEM’s mission, Saldivar said.

“People come in and they don’t have friends,” he said. “They don’t have a church to go to. It’s a foreign place, so this is a great way for them to get together and create a social group and interact.”

Saldivar agreed with Martinez’s characterization of the Brownsville market as hospitable to Mexican national transplants — and not just culturally.

“This market here is an incredible market,” he said. “We’ve got the Island. We’ve got opportunities in real estate. We’ve got opportunities in just about any sector that you can imagine. We’re actually a region that is growing as opposed to many other areas of the country that are not. A lot of that has to do with the fact that there’s a lot of money coming in from Mexico.”

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