Mayor Julian Castro urged Mexican business owners in San Antonio to
continue to build business "bridges" between the city and Mexico as San Antonio
strives to become the third large U.S. gateway to Latin America, after Los
Angeles and Miami.
"Our economic destinies are linked," Castro told 178 people attending a breakfast meeting of the Asociacion de Empresarios Mexicanos -- a group of Mexican businesspeople living here -- at the Club at Sonterra. "What benefits Mexico benefits San Antonio. ... Everyone can feel welcomed, especially Mexican entrepreneurs."
Connections already are growing stronger, Castro said, citing a 132 percent increase in Mexican passengers into and out of San Antonio International Airport in 2012 over 2011.
The Mexican passenger count rose an additional 25 percent during the first six months of 2013, compared to the first six months of 2012, said Barbara Prossen, the city Aviation Department's marketing and community relations director, who attended the event.
Castro said he wants the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico branch in San Antonio to grow "to a significant university presence," along the lines of the University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of the Incarnate Word and Trinity University. Castro said he discussed that goal with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto during a May visit.
Castro said business investments should flow two ways. He gave the more than 40 stores operated by San Antonio-based grocery chain H-E-B as an example of San Antonio companies doing business in Mexico, employing thousands of Mexican workers.
After the event, AEM President Eduardo Bravo said international business should be a larger part of the goals of SA2020, the mayor's long-term initiative to improve the city.
"It was important to have the mayor speak to us," Bravo said. "We will encourage a diversity group of AEM members next month to work on that addendum of the SA2020, to help the city of San Antonio be the gateway for Mexico and the Americas."
Castro's speech was followed by another from SA2020 CEO Daryl Byrd, who said $1.2 billion of the projected 2013-14 city budget of $2.3 billion is aligned toward SA2020 goals, which were written in 2010.
Byrd highlighted the education and health goals of SA2020. The city will monitor the reading levels of third-graders, he said, because that is the age at which children start reading to learn. Less than half the city's third-graders now read at the level they should, he said.
The SA2020 education goals are meant to make San Antonio known as the biggest education turnaround story in the nation by the end of the decade. By fighting diabetes and obesity, the SA2020 goal is to make "San Antonians among the healthiest of all Americans," Byrd said.
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