A cruise may help cement business relationships between this area and Mexico, officials say.
By ANNE LINDBERG
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 28, 2001
PINELLAS PARK -- Some area businesses are taking Horace Greeley's advice to "go west."
Although they're looking at Mexico rather than the United States, they're seeing the same thing Greeley found in the American West of the 1800s: opportunity.
So they're traveling to Mexico in April to search for markets or raw materials that may nurture them.
"Instead of "Land, ho!,' it's "Business, ho!' " said Terry England, one of the owners of England Brothers Construction Co., who is organizing the trip for the Pinellas Park/Mid-County Chamber of Commerce.
The trip will consist of a cruise April 7-12. Participants will have seminars onboard the ship to discuss international trading. They'll visit Progresso, in the Mexican Yucatan, and Cozumel.
The trip is a local follow-up to five Pinellas County-Mexico trade missions during the past two years. Those ventures have led to more than $30-million in new sales for the companies involved, according to county figures.
The idea behind the Pinellas Park chamber trip is to help city businesses -- from large to mom and pop -- to cash in on some of that.
But it's a hard sell to smaller businesses, England said.
"You almost have to drag businesses kicking and screaming into international trade," he said.
Small business owners are too busy running things to be able to take the time to think about expanding across international borders, England said.
You just have to approach the situation with no preconceived ideas and a mind open to innovation and possibilities, he said.
Which is how Paul Kerr is taking the trip.
"I'm pretty excited about the possibilities of Mexico," said Kerr, owner of ACAD, which supplies hotels and motels with everything from curtains to washing machines. "This is basically a fact-finding trip for me."
"My strong suit is knowing the types of products that will hold up well and appeal to the end user," he said. That might play well in the tourist-laden Mexican Yucatan, he added.
"They've got to buy their products from somewhere," Kerr said. "It might as well be me."
Also looking forward to the trip is Israel Castro of Castco Construction Co. Castro is going as a translator and research the quality and availability of reinforced steel and concrete byproducts that might save him money.
The idea of trade with Mexico should be particularly attractive for Pinellas Park-area businesses, Castro said.
It takes only 24 hours to ship something because it's a straight shot across the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the products there, such as seafood, are good quality and not outrageously priced.
England had a chance to see the opportunities when he accompanied Gov. Jeb Bush on a Mexican trade mission last year.
"I came back and said we are just missing the boat," England said. "I can't stand to see people miss it."