Dallas & Grapevine, TX – Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter: Leppert took a delegation of 20 elected officials and business leaders on this trade mission to Mexico City and the large industrial town of Monterrey. On his first international trip as mayor, the former construction executive said successful business ties are built on personal relationships.
Leppert: So part of what we did was try to establish those sort of relationships that'll have important benefits long into the future. We continually heard that Dallas simply hasn't been as aggressive as other Texas cities in getting the message out.
Zeeble: Leppert says this 3-day sales effort netted solid results. First, he's confident a meeting of Mexicans living abroad will be held here in April, when Mexican President Felipe Calderon will visit to speak. The mayor also travelled with local hospital executives who inked a contract between UT Southwestern and Monterrey medical facilities for an MD/PhD program in Monterrey. Council members, including Pauline Medrano, went along.
Pauline Medrano, Dallas City Council Member: Also, UT Southwestern will organize a meeting to discuss joint efforts in bio chemical development here in Dallas.
Zeeble: Dallas boasts the largest economy in Texas, & also the 3rd largest Mexican population in the U.S., after Los Angeles & Chicago. Mexico City has offices in those big cities. Now, as a result of this trip, Leppert says Mexico City will soon open an office here. The mayor also hopes to create an inland port link between the fledgling facility in South Dallas and a similar operation in Monterrey. Ultimately, he hopes a rail link between the two business hubs will create a powerful economic engine, driven by manufacturing. & trade.
These relationships are vital to the health of Dallas, says the mayor, who feared he might find some resistance south of the border, due to the hot-button issue of illegal immigration.
Leppert: It was not as big an issue in Mexico as I thought it was, or at least we didn't' get the questions. But I'll tell you it's a big issue.
Zeeble: Leppert says the approach of cities like Farmers Branch, who are writing their own immigration policies, is the worst policy. He urged Congress to find a solution that secures the borders without hindering small businesses. Mexico's Consul General in Dallas, Enrique Hubbard, was part of this delegation. And he says mayor Leppert separated himself from local leaders trying to legislate against illegal immigration.
Mexico's Consul General Enrique Hubbard: I think it was important for him as a symbolic idea to say Hey, the doors are open, this is why I'm making my first trip to Mexico, because I consider the Mexican population very important, and they're bringing something valuable to the society here.
Zeeble: And to further that effort, Leppert says he'll present the keynote speech this fall in Mexico City before a Chamber of Commerce gathering of Mexican and American business people. Bill Zeeble KERA news.