Saturday, December 8, 2007

"American Chamber keeps business booming"

(Published December 7, 2007 in The Guadalajara Reporter)


Guadalajara is fully integrated in the international business community, and its chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce is on top of the game.

Under the leadership of its respected founder Adolfo Horn, who died earlier this year, the chamber can claim responsibility in years past for attracting the likes of Kodak, IBM and Motorola to the city. The former tourism (now hospitality) committee has contributed such ideas to the local economy as the double occupancy tax for hotels, the Tequila Express tourist train, and the renovation of historic haciendas into “boutique hotels.”

The chamber’s fiscal committee in particular, whose meetings see the highest attendance by corporate members, has lobbied against double taxation for U.S. companies as a result of recent fiscal reform.

“We seek to support better conditions for businesses here in Guadalajara, with our eight active committees,” said Claudia Grossi, director of the Guadalajara branch. Grossi is an economist who has been involved in investment promotion in the state of Jalisco, within the academic realm and in connection with the chamber, for more than a decade.

The Guadalajara division boasts close to 500 corporate members. Its committees establish a forum for initiatives contributed directly by local business leaders.

The most recent business development committee, for instance, was held on November 27 and chaired by Eduardo Lafaire of Parque Industrial Guadalajara. The topic of the meeting was “Information Security in Technology Networks,” led by Salvador Ledesma of Internet Solutions de Mexico.

Ledesma showed a Power Point presentation, highlighting daunting figures of loss to fraud and viruses the Mexican economy suffered this year. He paused often to solicit dialogue from attendees.

“The culture of security right now is very narrow,” explained Ledesma. “The reality is that it’s important to us, but we want a quick and simple solution. It’s very important now to have a vision of security; we have to investigate our options.”

Rafael Farga, of Soporte Industrial, lamented this attitude. “It’s like a home alarm system – in what moment do people buy it? After they’ve been robbed.”

When asked how his company works to ensure its clients’ security, Benjamin Garza of BBVA Bancomer explained that they inform their customers how to avoid fraud, and provide them guarantees and alerts.

Ledesma emphasized the importance of maintaining a secure technological environment by preserving a system of checks and balances within each corporate entity so that the same department that designs the system does not control it.

A loss of security, he insisted, not only has an economic and competitive disadvantage, but will damage a company’s reputation.

While the Chamber’s Business Development Committee supports local economic efforts, the International Commerce Committee explores opportunities for Mexico in the global market.

On November 16, Alejando Sahagún of Jaltrade led a presentation on the Chinese market.

“China is here to stay, and we owe it respect,” said Sahagún, who sees a world of opportunity in Chinese trade and does not want Mexico to miss out. Not only should Mexico develop more business overseas, but should model economic decisions based on China’s approach.

Diversification of the Chinese market, for example, exempted the country from a global recession in 2001. According to Sahagún, Mexico would benefit from the same strategy.

Attendee Yuri Mariel, of AssaAbloy (Tessa), a hardware company, asked about how foreign companies “dumping” products into the market at extremely low prices might affect the local market. For example, a customer might choose a Chinese-made light fixture over the Mexican, albeit of lower quality, because it costs 20 pesos versus 100.

In response, Sahagún discussed quotas and new “anti-dumping” regulations Mexico should investigate to maintain fair prices and higher product quality.

“Don’t leave this only to the government,” implored Sahagún to the business leaders. “The American Chamber has a direct connection to the government and this is the place to go about discussing it.

“But this is our responsibility, we can create the links. Sell over there, open businesses – there is opportunity.”