Saturday, October 05, 2013

Alfidi Capital Pays Attention to Mexico and Silicon Valley

We often hear about the special relationship between the US and Great Britain.  It's cemented by language, culture, common law, and a long absence of conflict.  There may be some other special relationships out there that some of us have ignored.  I found out about another special relationship last week when government and business entities from the US and Mexico met in Silicon Valley to promote bilateral trade.

The City of San Jose's Office of Economic Development let us know just how lucrative the trade relationship is for California.  Mexico's GDP is growing this year and it's California's largest export market.  That's a whole lot of refried beans, pardner.  I didn't know that the federal government of Mexico had a trade promotion organization named ProMexico.  The Mexican Consulate in San Francisco informed us that ProMexico is their equivalent of the US Commercial Service.  They said the US is Mexico's #1 FDI source, and I tried to confirm this in OECD's Statistics with no luck.  "Made in Mexico" products have the highest percentage of US content of any domestically sourced products in the world; in other words, Mexicans put more US subcomponents into their goods than any other country.  The country has not done well in developing lower-tier suppliers and must rely on a high percentage of US-made components.  The regional breakdown of Mexico's economy is important.  Northern Mexico has generally higher purchasing power and more industrialization than southern Mexico.  This is clearly a good opportunity for US suppliers to continue to target maquiladoras in northern Mexico.

The Consulate said that US retirees in Mexico are mostly an untapped market for US-branded services.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure the makers of medical alert devices and motorized scooters are salivating at the chance to sell down there.  I also learned that Mexican startups rise seed-round money in the US because there's very little to find in Mexico.  It's hard for startups to qualify for business loans from Mexican banks because their interest rates are high.  It sounds like Mexican startups take CustDev seriously if they seek early adopters in the US to obtain market data.

The US Commercial Service introduced their Silicon Valley Export Assistance Center, which I didn't know existed.  See, I learn stuff too.  US companies doing business in Mexico can easily launch into other Latin American countries.  The Commercial Service can customize trade missions for a single company due to their extensive contacts in-country, starting with their Mexico country page.

Please note that the SBA also connects with the Silicon Valley Export Assistance Center.  Our government really does work well when the business sector is the client.  Uncle Sam protects intellectual property rights at StopFakes, safeguards critical technologies at the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), sponsors emerging markets through the US Trade and Development Agency, and finances trade at the Ex-Im Bank.  Our taxes pay for these services and they're pretty effective, so businesses would be crazy not to leverage them to the max.  Check out the SBA's export loan programs and OPIC's investment services (like their Expanding Horizons workshops).

The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce presented the local region's perspective.  I don't come down often enough from San Francisco to use their services but I'm intrigued by their program for reintegrating military veterans into civilian life.  The Joint Venture Index of Silicon Valley tracks this region's economic health and sponsors public-private solutions.  I recall that San Francisco once had a public-private partnership called the Private Industry Council but it was merged into a City office during Gavin Newsom's administration.  The Silicon Valley Leadership Group assembles the region's leading employers to speak in one voice on public policy.  I didn't quite see the direct connections to trade with Mexico but the region certainly has the right policy players in place.  I also learned that "embeddedness quotient" describes employee happiness.  Who knew?  I didn't.

Mexico and the US have a lot going on.  That's pretty special.