Written by Robert J. Gross
We just returned from a Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) sponsored trip to Mexico. These are wonderful opportunities for Wisconsin-based manufacturing businesses to go to a foreign market and pursue sales in a safe and productive environment. If you make something, this is what you want to do! My brother Dan and I went there the last week of February and have just returned.
For a reasonable and subsidized cost, the WEDC helps put these ventures in place. We get a specific country briefing, the local contracted agency does outreach for us based on our requirements and sets up our appointments. When we arrive in-country, we are picked up at the airport and all participants stay at the same hotel. There is a cultural activity on the night of our arrival, and then we head out to our assigned meetings the next morning. For those meetings, we have a professional in-country driver and a translator on an as-needed basis based on our language skills. In the end, we gather together, tell stories of our great fortunes and then head home to go to work on the multiple activities that we’ve identified during our visit.
Our flight left Chicago just a bit late as they were looking for potable water. Apparently, there are only two water trucks in the entire O’Hare fleet and we had to wait for one of them to service the plane. Other than that, there were no problems with our direct-to-Monterrey flight on United Airlines. Upon landing, we found our driver and were transported without incident to our hotel, arriving around 3pm-ish. Our room was not ready but they took our luggage and we were off to our cultural event.
Monterrey is a beautiful city in the northeastern area of Mexico and represents their 3rd largest economy. They have an awesome city culture which we were able to enjoy in the 83-degree F temperatures. We rode a boat that took us from one end of the riverwalk to the other, well into the downtown area. This is a man-made river that is cleaned by chemicals. There are no fish or wildlife of any kind in this river and there are river taxis that run the 2.5 km distance into the city. We exited the museum district and the group walked around for a couple hours admiring the sights and sounds of Monterrey. Afterward, we ended up in a fairly upscale restaurant for a fantastic dinner of crickets, worms, and ant eggs. Ask me about the food next time we talk!
Monday and Tuesday were full of calls in the greater Monterrey area. We visited with a number of automation and controls integrators as well as a few solar systems providers. In spite of some personal difficulties experienced during one of our meetings, we were able to recover with a dinner that evening with their team. This was way more normal food and included some of the best beef ribs I have ever tasted. Bottom line, there is business here and now that the epidemic is over, everyone is just itching to get going and get it done!
Tuesday evening, we flew from Monterrey to Mexico City, which again was uneventful. Mexico City sits at 7600 ft. and I stayed on the 33rd floor of the hotel. You betcha, I was oxygen-deprived — big time.
Wednesday morning, our driver picked us up bright and early and we went to Cholula, Puebla in east-central Mexico. Yes — this is the famous hot sauce that I have almost every morning on my eggs! Yet, no one there seemed to know anything about it. We made our first appointment and then has a cancellation for our second appointment. So as long as we were there, we stopped and had our pictures taken in front of a cathedral that was put on top of a pyramid. We also stopped in an open-air market and experienced the dead chickens and fish and mole sauces along with crafts and local cultural items. To get there and back, we climbed over 10,500 ft. before descending into the city!
Thursday turned out to be a rather down day. Our main appointment was canceled as they either lost their job or had quit or something. Fortunately, our other appointment was “out of town” and turns out that he was visiting Grand Rapids, MI. So, he met our sales rep in Grand Rapids for lunch while we enjoyed the warm, yet polluted sunshine of Mexico City. Then, that evening was the closing dinner of the trade venture at one of the nicer restaurants in Mexico City. Way too many tequilas/margaritas flowed that evening as we said goodbye to each other and celebrated our many successful adventures.
Friday was the single busiest day of the trip for us. We left at 7am for Querétaro, in north-central Mexico. It is one of the smallest cities and states in Mexico and we returned to Mexico City well after 8pm that evening. We had multiple awesome calls and discussions with mostly automation and controls integration companies, all wanting to get back to work and put the pandemic behind us.
After a hotel special breakfast buffet on Saturday morning, we packed up, got picked up by our team, and headed off to the airport. There, we bought as much tequila as we were allowed, mostly airport-exclusive ones. Plane was old but the United flight was direct back to O’Hare. Let me know, then come on over and have a taste of Mexico with me that is unique and not available outside of Mexico — except at here at Gross Automation!
The stats for the end of our trip:
We made ten in-person sales visits to current and potential customers. Our Grand Rapids team made one. We have two more to do virtually with one scheduled for this coming Friday and one more to be made afterwards. We have already as a result of this trip, quoted over $168k in new single project business with a reasonable chance of turning this into a long term relationship across multiple countries in Central America. Of course, we had won before we ever left the ground in the US just with the outreach and the building of brand recognition for Gross Automation.
To our ground team in Mexico, for their fantastic efforts, go our many thanks. Our main contact person was in quarantine due to her 4th Covid infection. Yet, she still delivered. How awesome and dedicated is that?
Have you ever considered exporting to or importing from Mexico? Next time you see me, ask me about how Mexico is doing and how our business there is growing.
Mexico is open for business!