U.S. Mayor Article

Houston's Mayoral Advisory Boards for International Affairs and Development (MABIAD) Increase City's Global Reach


November 12, 2001


Houston enters the new millennium not just as the fourth largest city in the U.S. but as a global city, exchanging goods and services with over 180 countries around the world.

"International business is a key part of Houston's economy," says Mayor Lee P. Brown. "One of every three workers in the Houston metro area directly benefits from our international trade."

Houston is the energy capital of the world and over 5,000 firms in the city are involved in oil and/or gas exploration and refinement. NASA and the Johnson Space Center are home to the largest international cooperative science and engineering program ever attempted the International Space Station. The Texas Medical Center is the largest single campus of health care and medical research facilities and attracts patients from nearly every country on the planet. Houston is one of the world's centers of high technology development. The Port of Houston is this country's number one port in foreign tonnage. The Houston Airport System's international reach is to 47 destinations in 21 countries.

Houston itself is international. Houston has the third largest consular corps in the country, with 74 nations represented. And Houston is a diverse city, with over 100 nationalities. One in eight Houstonians is foreign born.

One of the guiding principles of Mayor Brown's administration is to enhance Houston's economic development and international trade. Brown has himself gone on trade missions to countries in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Africa. To ensure the ongoing commitment of the city to international business development, Brown has created the Mayoral Advisory Boards for International Affairs and Development (MABIAD). There are five volunteer advisory boards: Asia, Africa, Americas, Middle East and North Africa, and Europe.

"Attracting potential investors and creating long-lasting relationships with foreign leaders and companies is absolutely necessary for Houston's future success," says Mayor Brown." Brown has appointed the volunteer board members because of their knowledge of a region and their commitment to Houston's international business endeavors. The board members are also active in their communities in Houston. MABIADs provide invaluable advice to the mayor and his administration regarding socio/political issues and potential development of business opportunities. Additionally, the board members act as a bridge between city government and corporations here and abroad. The board members serve as a welcoming and hosting arm for visiting dignitaries and business people.

"The MABIAD board members are talented and insightful," says the mayor. "Much of our success in international affairs is due to their efforts."

Each of the MABIADs is involved in specific projects. These have resulted in several trade missions initiated or led by the mayor, officers of the Greater Houston Partnership and corporate chiefs: United Arab Emirates, Quatar and Saudi Arabia; Cairo and Dubai; Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire and South Africa; Pakistan, India and Korea; China, Japan and Taiwan. The missions have promoted Houston as a vibrant city in which to conduct business, invest capital, visit and live. The missions have also resulted in numerous City Department Agreements.

These City Department Agreements and exchanges involve specific areas of excellence in several of Houston's 21 departments. Long-term benefits include business development, training opportunities and technical exchange. City departments and pertinent associated organizations are partnered with counterparts in emerging foreign markets to provide technical assistance in improving professional municipal management; supporting participatory and inclusive governance; supporting economic development; promoting sound financial management; and improving delivery of environmental services. Current cooperative agreements between Houston and cities in other countries exist with Houston's Aviation Department, Solid Waste Department and the Houston Port. Additionally, Partner-Cities in Hi-Tech agreements, Environmental Protection agreements and Bilateral Education agreements are in place.

"More than ever, Houston is recognized as a global city, a city well worth getting to know on a business, political and cultural level," says Brown.

MABIADs work in conjunction with other Houston agencies, including the Houston International Initiative, the Houston International Protocol Alliance, Houston Airport System, the World Trade Vision of the Greater Houston Partnership, International Coordinating Council and the U.S. Department of Commerce - International Trade Administration.

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