Price stresses trade between Fort Worth, Mexico City during recent trip

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.

From the moment Mayor Betsy Price and a delegation of Fort Worth and Dallas elected officials, community, business and tourism officials landed in Mexico City last week, it was back-to-back meetings and receptions.

“We were really on a jam-packed schedule,” Price said. “We just went nonstop.”

But while the trip was centered on promoting Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Price and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings took time to tout each of their cities, and the region, with Mexican officials. The trip was followed by a visit by Fort Worth officials to Toluca, Mexico, a Fort Worth Sister City.

The delegation included representatives from the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau. Trade between Mexico and the Dallas-Fort Worth region was more than $1.3 billion in 2015.

Of course the U.S. presidential race came up in conversation, as did Donald Trump’s idea to build a wall between the two countries, Price said, but the delegation instead stressed building bridges with their Mexican counterparts.

“They’re very concerned about the presidential race,” Price said. “There were lots of questions. They weren’t focused so much on the wall, but free trade. Part of what we told them, was that cities are the driving force, the economic engines for the nations and particularly our region. If we build bridges with them and weave together the three cities … you’re looking at jobs, you’re looking at dollars coming into the country. We believe if we build those bridges we will be fine.”

The Star-Telegram caught up with Price this week to talk about the trip. Here are excerpts from that interview:

On meeting Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera:

That was a very good meeting. He had specific items he wanted to know about: garbage, recycling, education, infrastructure, wastewater management and mobility issues. Air quality and pollution; he knew Fort Worth was a nonattainment area and how we tackled that. We talked about what we’re doing with education.

On doing business with Fort Worth companies:

The businesspeople were interested in what opportunities are here in the Metroplex for investors, what could be done on import and export. We talked a lot about the region, the growth we’re having and the business climate here. We had a meeting with Civitas Capital Group, a company that does an EB-5 program in Fort Worth. Civitas invited 50 people to a luncheon to talk about investing.

[The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is a federal program that gives foreign nationals a chance to obtain permanent U.S. residency for themselves and their immediate family in return for investing in an American business that creates new jobs.]

On improving trade between Fort Worth and Mexico:

When we’ve done these in the past, and this one was even more specific, people want to at least have a face for the region. They like that face-to-face interaction. You encourage them to come and visit you. we encourage them to share with us … their needs and we’d send them back opportunities. Once they get to know you, they have a better level of trust and that’s what part of these trips are about, building relationships, building bridges.

On Mexico’s drug cartels:

Not at length, but we talked about them some. We talked a lot about public safety. They have reduced Mexico City from being the third most likely place for kidnapping to the 20th in that part of the world. Crime in the city has gone way, way down. They have 80,000 officers in Mexico City, isn’t that unbelievable. We talked about their corruption issues because that is a big issue for businesses here. Everybody from the consulate to … the secretary under the president of commerce and secretary of foreign affairs, assured us that … indeed American businesses can do business.