03/25/12 — Mexican consul visits Wayne County to discuss jobs

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Mexican consul visits Wayne County to discuss jobs

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 25, 2012 1:50 AM

People might tend to associate Mexico with its violent drug war or illegal migrant workers, issues that Carlos Flores Vizcarra, Consul General of Mexico in the Carolinas, says his country is working to resolve. However, North Carolina residents also need to know that his country is the state's third-leading trading partner, he said.

And as the first consul general of Mexico in the Carolinas, Vizcarra told the leadership of the Wayne County Development Alliance on Monday afternoon that his duties include fostering and developing Mexico's and the state's economic ties.

Vizcarra met earlier this year with Goldsboro city officials who suggested the meeting with the Alliance.

Vizcarra said his office, located in Raleigh, is the only consular office in the state.

"Consular affairs means consular assistance, protection, legal matters and documents which we do on a large scale," he said. "To the surprise of many, Raleigh is No. 1 in the nation. We are expediting documents to Mexican nationals and we are providing services. We are number one. We surpass Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Houston. We also surpass Atlanta, which at one time was the head office for us."

People don't realize how big a trading partner Mexico is with the U.S., Vizcarra said -- Mexico buys more from the U.S. than several countries combined.

"We consider there are many opportunities," he said. "For example, Mexico has the Mission Foods plant here."

There are other Mexican companies located throughout the state, employing thousands of people, he said. Another Mexican company is doing $1 billion in projects near Charlotte over the next 30 months, he said.

Alliance President Joanna Helms asked Vizcarra about the kinds of comments he hears about North Carolina, particularly the eastern part of the state.

"Most of it is good for all of the parties involved," he said. "The fact that North Carolina has agriculture, its most dynamic sector, the one that generates most of the economy.

"All we have to do is go and look directly in the rural area. Who are the people working in the fields? We assist as much as we can all of the Mexicans working there. They are the ones who are part of the equation to the expansion of agriculture.

"We see an increasing number of Hispanics those who have legal status that are settling down in the state and have been doing so for decades."

And now those people are looking to expand, he said. Today, that is seen in the number of Mexican restaurants, he said. However, a lot of start-up companies also are being started by Hispanics, Vizcarra said.

Mrs. Helms agreed and said the county has seen such development with smaller companies, such as service companies, starting in the county.

Vizcarra has been visiting businesses throughout the state, including Mt. Olive Pickle Co., which not only employs a number of Hispanic workers, but at times purchases cucumbers from Mexico.

"You see that is how connected that we are," Vizcarra said. "That is why we wanted to visit with you, to let you know that we are very interested in promoting opportunities for your area for Mexican companies to consider coming here. Also to see how we can be of help to companies in the area that want to conduct business in Mexico or who are doing so already and want to have more information."

County Manager Lee Smith told Vizcarra that the largest issue facing the county and its Hispanic residents continues to be cultural -- particularly where law enforcement and health issues are concerned.

There are a number of local Hispanic residents who are helping, but more is needed, he said.

That has been the case in other areas, Vizcarra said.

Vizcarra suggested the county look at programs in Durham and Siler City that have been very successful in helping bridge those gaps.

The county's Hispanic population is growing and people wrongly think Hispanics are taking more than what they are giving back to the community, Mrs. Helms said.

Some money might be sent back to family in Mexico, but they also are spending money in the county, she said. Their children are going to school in the county and they are doing things in the community, she said.

They are trickling more and more into the mainstream community, Mrs. Helms said.

And, Vizcarra added, about 40 percent of those living in North Carolina have legal status.

"They are here to stay," he said. "The Census has it that over 50 million Americans are of Hispanic heritage or roots. Out of those more or less 70 percent are of Mexican origin. That is the fastest growing segment demographically and economically."

As the U.S. economy grows so will the need for labor from abroad, Vizcarra said.

"I don't believe that Mexicans are taking away jobs from Americans," Vizcarra said. "If you go to the field, everybody has tried it. We have heard it from farmers.

"They have said, 'Well, we have published the job opportunities for Americans. Some of them show up. Maybe 70 out of a work force of 700 and then on the third day there are zero Americans working there. They have all left. They say it is too hard."