PHOENIX -- Dozens of Arizona small business leaders gathered in a packed seminar room in Scottsdale on Thursday to learn about Mexican business culture and the logistics of exporting across the border.
Favorable reports about Mexico's economic growth are prompting these local companies to consider getting their goods and services into Mexican markets.
The seminar was put on by the Arizona District Export Council, and pupils included recyclers, herbal supplement vendors, lawyers, and Lyle Trotter, the president of Aztec Flooring in Tucson.
"The economy in Mexico is growing very, very fast, way faster than it is here in the States, so we see a lot of opportunities to sell," Trotter said.
Trotter sells commercial flooring, and wants Mexican businesses and maquiladoras as customers. But he hasn't had much luck on his own making business contacts.
"I've been down myself trying and everybody in Mexico is very polite, but they never call you back," Trotter said.
He's now planning to get networking help from the U.S Export Assistance Center, which was also behind the seminar. The center, which is under the U.S. Department of Commerce, aids American companies in international exports. Eric Nielsen is the Arizona director.
"The last year we have seen very encouraging interest from the small business community, wanting to learn more about opportunities in places like Nogales, Sonora, Hermosillo, Guaymas," Nielsen said.
But, he says, they often struggle with the first steps. "So we are here to help with that process and to bring them along to the point that they are successfully selling and have sustained sales in the Mexican market."
At the seminar, a recurring theme was the importance of establishing personal connections with Mexican colleagues and learning Mexican cultural norms for business transactions.
"If you go to a meeting and they offer you dinner, or a tequila or a cigar, it doesn't mean that you are settling the deal," said Fernando Jimenez of the Arizona Commerce Authority during a panel discussion. "That is the natural way of welcoming you, it doesn't meant that they like you, it doesn't mean that they like your products, it just means that they are being polite."
Arizona's top partner for foreign trade is already the Mexican state of Sonora. But Nielsen says Arizona's small business are just starting to scratch the surface when it comes to exporting their goods into Mexico.