Mexican Entrepreneurs Expand North Of The Border
Photo by Hernán Rozemberg.
SAN ANTONIO, Texas Pablo González has already built a reputation as the “Mexican Starbucks” guy.
That could be enough for the 39-year-old entrepreneur, but, if things go right, he could be just getting started.
He just opened a new coffee shop in downtown San Antonio. It’s called Café Punta del Cielo, or Slice of Heaven Café. He has been an investor all his life and previously made a decent living in the fishing industry. But he decided to turn his like of coffee into a passionate love affair with coffee.
“So our soul is to show that we’re not only a coffee bar but that we are really experts in what we are doing and make people proud of the good things made in Mexico, in this case it’s coffee,” he said.
Mexico’s economy is growing at more than twice the annual rate of that of the U.S. right now. Couple that with the high volume of wealthy Mexicans moving to the U.S. to escape the incessant drug war and the growing purchasing power of the U.S. Latino community — it all makes for great timing for Mexican businesses looking to expand into the U.S market.
“Trade and investment go hand in glove, and you’re seeing because of the proximity of the U.S. market and the familiarity of Mexican firms in the U.S. market, an expansion of their activity in Texas and in other states,” said Jeffrey Schott, a Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Texas is by far Mexico’s top trading partner among U.S. states, to the tune of nearly $13 billion this year — a record. So it probably comes as no surprise that Mexican entrepreneurs look to Texas first. And, in particular, to San Antonio — the seventh-largest U.S. city, with palpable cultural ties to Mexico.
To help them get them started with paperwork and make the right business connections, they call on Raul Rodríguez at the Free Trade Alliance, which advocates for open markets and free-flowing commerce.
“If you’re in Mexico and you’re not doing business with the U.S., you’re missing out on an opportunity, because there’s other countries like Argentina, Colombia, Spain, Panamá, that always say, I wish I was where Mexico is,” Rodríguez said.
Definitive statistics on the Mexican business expansion are hard to come by. Rodríguez’s group has helped 163 companies since 1999 and about 60 of those remain in business. And the Texas Governor’s office lists 105 Mexican businesses in the state.
Many are in the service sector but include other areas, such as high-tech. That’s what Héctor Leal offers.
He runs a profitable cluster of cyber security companies in Monterrey. His team has developed coding to take on the smartest hackers, he said.
“We know that just a small team of people around the world knows how to complete these kinds of services, that’s why we really believe that we can find a specific place for us here in United States,” Leal said.
Back at Punta del Cielo coffee shop, Mexican coffee is quickly winning converts.
“I definitely can tell a flavor difference,” said Jeremy Koester, who’s got an Internet gaming start-up. “I get the frappé and so like from a frappucino at Starbucks, the flavor is incomparably better.”
He’s sitting next to colleague Cristal Glanchai, who directs the Center for Entrepreneurship at Trinity University.
“I think I’m actually going to be coming back here and bring more people, kind of like he brought me,” Glanchai said.
González is pleased to hear such praise. He’s confident his shop will do well here. His shtick is that he offers coffee you won’t get anywhere else in the U.S.
“We have from the different states like Veracruz, Chiapas. We have our own chocolate, Oaxaca style, that we bring from Mexico also,” he said.
He has 134 stores throughout Mexico and has expanded to Hong Kong and Spain. The San Antonio shop is the first of several planned for the U.S., he said — his next target is Chicago.
There’s no guarantee that all Mexican businesses looking north of the border will succeed. But what’s for certain is that many entrepreneurs smell good timing and are ready to give it a try.
Raúl Rodríguez at the Free Trade Alliance says he fields inquiries daily. Up next: A Mexican manufacturer of air-conditioning filters for cars looking to open a distribution office.