On May 30th - June 4th, 2019, we welcomed eleven international visitors from Europe for an IVLP regional program called “The Contemporary US Economy." The visitors represented Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom. They all brought a unique perspective to the program and contributed in fruitful conversations with each other and the resources with whom they engaged.
On Friday, our visitors met with the representatives of the local Frost Bank, where they learnt about current banking issues, investment, and insurance tendencies. Though representatives of Frost Bank admitted that their international presence was quite limited compared to some bigger banks in Texas, its local influence was strong and growing in San Antonio. European guests kindly praised American banks for their stability and wanted to know the secret for a high level of trust in the community. The secret was simple: build up relations. The next meeting was with the representatives at University of Texas Health San Antonio - Long School of Medicine, where Dr. Hromas, the Dean at the Long School of Medicine and the Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Texas Health Center in San Antonio welcomed our guests at the lunch table. The presentations of modern researches and current issues in the medicine didn’t leave any participant indifferent. Our guests were impressed by the diverse parts of the contemporary economy in San Antonio and its motto “we want to cooperate and find solutions together rather than compete and be rivals”.
Later on Friday afternoon, they continued their discussion at a meeting with representatives of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The Vice President of Government Affairs shared her experience and observation of the tendencies in the international business relations between Hispanic and American business, especially taking into account the recent talks about tariffs increasing at the border. The discussion continued by outlining the importance of education and guidance of small business owners on exporting and importing their product and services.
On Saturday, the visitors had a great time visiting San Antonio Missions and in the evening, each ILVP participant enjoyed face-to-face conversations with the local members of SACIV, experiencing the example of local family traditions and Texan home hospitality. On Sunday they visited the historic town of Gruene, TX, where they learnt more about the diverse culture of the Texas Hill Country and had lunch at the famous local restaurant, The Gristmill, as well as walked around the quaint town and visited the various shops.
On Monday morning, the IVLP guests met with the director of the Bexar County Small, Medium, and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (SMWBE) Program. Our visitors heard about the variety of programs they offer, which seek to support and maximize women’s role in the local economy. Their next meeting was with the business representatives of Asociacion de Empresarios Mexicanos (AEM), who shared more about the practical side of doing business in San Antonio being from Mexico and vice versa. Specifically, the representatives of the AEM shared cultural differences and details of educating and guiding new Mexican businesses here in San Antonio. There was an open discussion about concerns and worries on both sides of business in Mexico and the US.
After lunch, they headed to the UTSA’s Institute for Economic Development, which encompasses a variety of centers and programs that facilitate economic, community, and business development at the local, regional, and national. The European group learnt about resources, which included technical training, research, market analysis, and strategic planning for entrepreneurs, business owners, and community leaders.
And finally, the visitors met with an ever-ready partner and resource of SACIV, LiftFund. The delegation openly asked questions about the services to small businesses and entrepreneurs who didn’t have access to loans from commercial sources. They also learned about the programs LiftFund supports, namely Women’s Business Center and LaunchSA. The participants were impressed by numbers and great work this center does in the community.
Through these varied and impactful meetings, the delegation from Europe was able to explore San Antonio’s successful efforts to promote financial stability, to discuss US investments in emerging markets, and programs that assist developing local markets. Each one of them found the appointments useful in exchanging views on the US/Europe economic relationship.