Thursday, October 15, 2009

Meet-and-greet connects local businesses with big corporations

Meet-and-greet connects local businesses with big corporations

October 15, 2009 7:30 AM

Sean Gaffney
The Monitor

McALLEN — Abel Garcia emerged triumphant from a small classroom Wednesday afternoon, one step closer to landing a lucrative contract to recycle plastics for a big-time maquiladora.

For local suppliers like McAllen-based 3gm Extrusion, where Garcia is managing director, finding work with manufacturers in Reynosa is often frustrating and sometimes impossible. Top corporate executives who make decisions are usually unwilling to open the door to relative unknowns.

But Wednesday, at a meet-and-greet organized by the McAllen Economic Development Corp., Garcia skipped several rungs on the corporate ladder and snagged a chance to pitch his firm’s services to the leadership of Minneapolis-based Pentair a mere 24 hours later. All that remained was to prove to the maker of water circulation and filtration products that 3gm could recycle plastics for Pentair’s three maquilas.

“The hardest part for us is to get to the decision-makers. Going up the ladder from the bottom to the top doesn’t work,” Garcia said. “Cold calling — you’re not getting anyone on the phone or getting a call back.”

Nearly 20 suppliers tried to woo Pentair executives at South Texas College’s Technology Campus on Wednesday. The company is trying to trim costs by using local suppliers.

Officials from the economic development corporation and STC organized the event, which they said could help add jobs on both sides of the border.

“The disconnect we have is when a company moves to a region with opportunities to expand but doesn’t have the local connections,” said Gerald Stinson, manager of the National Institute for Metalwork Skills program at STC. “We introduce them to our small businesses.”

A wide downturn in manufacturing assailed Reynosa’s maquilas in 2008, leading to broad job losses and an overall slowdown in production. At the same time, many companies have tried to cut costs by consolidating U.S. factories at their Reynosa counterparts, taking away U.S. jobs but boosting employment across the border.

Local experts hope that when manufacturing recovers to pre-recession levels, Reynosa’s maquilas will employ more laborers and make more products than they did before the economic freefall.

Pentair, which makes pumps for Coca-Cola soda fountains and pool accessories and an array of other products, has cut hundreds of jobs at its maquilas. But the company also shut down three plants in the U.S. and moved the production to Reynosa, boosting employment and offsetting much of the job loss, said Alba Nelly Peña, Mexico sourcing manager for the company.

Moving the operations to Reynosa cut the company’s production costs by 11 percent. Using local suppliers, the company expected to cut an additional 10 percent. It expects to add another maquila soon.

“We’ve been doing (local) sourcing for the last 15 years,” Peña said. “Pretty much now, everything you’re looking for is in Mexico (or along the border.)”

MEDC aims to connect local suppliers; increase business in challenging economic times

MEDC aims to connect local suppliers; increase business in challenging economic times

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Texas Border Business

In an effort to drive business locally and build connections within the supply chain, more than 20 supplier companies from throughout the Upper Valley and Northern Mexico will meet with representatives from Pentair on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009 from 8 am to 5 pm. Pentair is a global water systems and technology provider with more than 15,000 employees in 20 countries.

Pentair already has three divisions in Reynosa and continues to be successful in this market. As Pentair seeks to reduce costs, company officials hope to localize its supply base by using services and ordering commodities from companies within a 24-hour delivery radius. Time slots filled within two weeks as local companies try to find new business opportunities during a time when manufacturing has slowed around the world.

This innovative event, sponsored by the McAllen Economic Development Corporation and South Texas College, is a first-time event in which potential suppliers have the one-on-one networking opportunity with a specific company. South Texas College officials hope this will provide students with a glimpse of the McAllen/Reynosa manufacturing sector and provide networking opportunities for future job seekers.

The event will be held the STC Technical Campus at the intersection of Military Highway and Ware Road on Wednesday, Oct. 14, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Representatives from Pentair, along with suppliers and officials from the McAllen Economic Development Corp, the Reynosa Association of Maquiladoras and Manufacturers and South Texas College will be available to interview.