Mason establishes partnership with Mexican university

Anne Schiller (front left) signing with Sergio Fernandez Delgadillo (front right), flanked by Roberta Jackson (back left) and Eduardo Medina-Mora (back right) (photo by Vernon Miles
Anne Schiller (front left) signing with Sergio Fernandez Delgadillo (front right), flanked by Roberta Jackson (back left) and Eduardo Medina-Mora (back right) (photo by Vernon Miles

In the Delegates Lounge of the Department of State, the Mason Enterprise Center (MEC) finalized a deal to take their business incubator model global. The deal formalized a partnership between the MEC and the Autonomous University of Nuevo León (UANL) to build economic prospects in Mexico and collaborative business ventures. The deal is a landmark as the first partnership formed under the Small Business Network of the Americas, a recently launched State Department program.

Mason was represented by Anne Schiller, the Vice President for Global Strategies and Professor of Anthropology. She signed the agreement with Sergio Fernandez Delgadillo, Vice President for Sustainable Development at UANL. Among the gathered dignitaries was Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Eduardo Medina-Mora, Ambassador of Mexico to the United States.

“For me, this initiative really exemplifies two of the most important policy goals we have,” Roberta Jacobson said. “One is stimulating small business, not only because it is a job generator in both countries, which is crucial, but also because the majority of small businesses don’t export. So by linking these two centers and allowing entrepreneurs to come in and get help… what that means is our entrepreneurs can begin to export.”

The partnership was formed out of the annual business conference in Orlando last September hosted by America’s Small Business Development Center network (ASBDC). The aim of the conference was to build connections between American and foreign business networks. Each of the 75 foreign business networks would have three appointments with similar American networks, like speed dating, where the companies would work out a series of ideas and potential collaborations.

“Mason senior leadership recognizes UANL as a thought leader in Mexico,” said Schiller. “We strive to be a catalyst for innovation. We believe this partnership will result, not just in job creation and capital gain, but in an open exchange of knowledge and experience.”

UANL is the third largest university in Mexico with seven campuses in Nuevo León and is launching its first business incubation programs with the guidance of the MEC. The MEC manages several business incubation sites across Northern Virginia. The MEC program was ranked as one of the top ten national business incubator centers nationally and one of the top twenty internationally by the UBI Index, a Stockholm based research initiative.

 “The partnership increases globalization, increased access to best practices,” said Keith Segerson, executive director of the MEC. “They have a program that supports businesses across Mexico; we have a similar one here in Virginia. There are tangential benefits of research, faculty exchanges, collaborative grant projects… so anytime we have an agreement internationally, and it always includes a suite of options. There are also global business developments, it’s not just building their business base, they create ideas and innovations and we can collaborate on those.”

The partnership is specifically designed around businesses that can develop exports. As of 2012, Mexico was the second largest goods export market, and Mexico is the United States’ third largest goods supplier. However, 70 percent of this trade is managed by 70 companies.

“The ability of small enterprises to participate is severely limited,” said Medina-Mora. “There are two good moments to plant a tree: 20 years ago, and today. The tree of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) has given us good fruit. The real economic powerhouse is us, is North America, we just need to be prepared to grasp that, to take the step, to take the risk.”

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