CITD Success Stories

"Maquiladora Tour 2001" Mission Successful

On June 27, a contingent of 58 people crossed the Mexican border to participate in the first trade mission to explore the billion-dollar Maquiladora industry in Baja-California.

"Maquiladora" is the name given to plants in Mexico that assemble or produce products that are then exported. Companies operating in the Maquiladora industry receive tax preferences from the Mexican and U.S. Governments that allow them to ship products and parts over either border almost duty-free.

The trade mission, "Maquiladora Tour 2001," was a Two-day hands-on, information packed event where individuals from small to medium California businesses visited manufacturing and assembly line industries in Mexico to explore business opportunities across the border.

Charlie Lowe, Manager of the California Mexico Trade Assistance Center (CMTAC), spearheaded the concept of a trade mission and then worked with four Centers for International Trade Development (CITDs)- El Camino Community College, Southwestern College in Chula Vista, Citrus College, and Riverside Community College-to organize it.

Lowe said that the purpose of the trade mission was to give U.S. companies exposure to Mexico and confidence in the business processes required to do business there. "We made it painless for them," he said. "We took them on a bus across the border, showed them a cross section of all elements of doing business in Mexico-assembly or production-and allowed them opportunities to network along the way."

The first day's activities included knowledgeable speakers on economic and commercial opportunities in Mexico and a tour of Otay Mesa-a warehousing, transportation, and shipping point just East of San Diego. Participants observed customs' computer processes in Mexico and the U.S. and saw how the trucks were inspected. They also toured two Maquiladora assembly plants-a computer products company and a manufacturing and assembling plant, which provides 50 percent of the world's plastic hangers. The U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. embassy in Tijuana helped coordinate activities on the Mexico side. The second day consisted of the Mexport cross-border trade show, where the World Trade Center in San Diego cooperated in setting-up matchmaking appointments between CMTAC clients and potential Mexican partners.

The trade mission showed participants how interdependence can benefit both countries in our global economy. The success of this first mission has caused a clamoring for more trade missions of this kind, and Lowe says it will be worthwhile to put together several events a year.

CMTAC helps California 2000 Trade Show Connect California Businesses with Mexican Resources

It's been an incredibly busy and exciting year for Charlie Lowe, Acting Manager of the Community Advancement Division's International Trade Development Center (CITD) and manager of the newly established California Mexico Trade Assistance Center (CMTAC).

For years, he has been a business consultant at the Torrance CITD Center, sharing his 20 years of experience as an exporter to Latin America and the Middle East with South Bay companies interested in exporting goods and services in foreign markets.

When word came in June 1999 that Governor Gray Davis was expanding the mission of the CITD to give more emphasis to helping California businesses do more business in Mexico, Charlie Lowe expected great things to happen. What surprised him was how fast they happened. By year end, the CITD had a new expanded grant and a mandate to help create business opportunities between California companies and Mexico. It was then that Charlie and the previous CITD Director Tony Dolz decided to visit Mexico City on a fact-finding mission. They both spoke Spanish and both had business experience in foreign markets. They were also entrepreneurs. So, they just did it. They flew to Mexico City and began to build a resource network. They met with U.S. Commercial Services, an arm of the Department of Commerce in Mexico and with the American Chamber Mexico as well as with several Mexican agencies and the Mexico City office of California Trade and Commerce Agency. When they returned, they shared what they learned with the 18 other CMTAC offices located throughout California.

Upon their recommendation, all of the CMTAC centers decided to participate in, and co-sponsor, a trade show and trade mission called "The California 2000", held last September in Mexico City. During the 3-day event managed by the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Commercial Service in Mexico City, California businesses were able to exhibit goods and services to potential distributors, wholesalers and business partners in Mexico and begin the networking process.

The 18 CMTAC offices worked cooperatively promoting the event and were successful in recruiting over half of the exhibitors. One of those exhibitors was Lydia Keller, President of M2 Skincare , who offers a line of products she felt would do well in the Mexican market. As a direct result of her participation in the event, she sourced 30 good leads for distributors of her cosmetic line and wrote $50,000 in sales. Next year she and her manufacturer partner, Cobe Chem Labs, project annual sales up to $1,000,000 in Mexico.

In addition to recruiting exhibitors for the trade show, the Torrance CMTAC published a resource book for participants and any business looking for contacts in Mexico. The center also conducts classes on doing business in Mexico and provides information about the Mexican plants called "maquiladoras" where American companies can have their products assembled and/or manufactured.

Charlie Lowe is very proud of CMTAC and its ability to work together and respond so quickly to the governor's mandate. However, he's even prouder of the role the Torrance CMTAC played. "We were an important early liaison between the statewide CMTAC and resources in Mexico." Like true entrepreneurs, Charlie Lowe and Tony Dolz just did it.

For more information, contact Maurice Kogon at the Center for International Trade Development (310) 381-0577.