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Jalisco, Mexico Competes for Silicon Valley's Business

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August 3, 2017

Jaime Reyes Robles, an official with the Mexican state of Jalisco, said President Trump's immigration policy "has been our best marketing." (Photo: Rodrigo Cruz for The New York Times)

Guadalajara, Mexico As part of U.S. President Donald Trump's efforts to push an America-first philosophy, he has vowed to restrict the availability of special visas that are widely used by technology companies to hire talent from around the world.

But while entrepreneurs and executives in the United States are fretting, other countries - including Mexico, Canada and China - are salivating over the Trump administration's rumblings. Silicon Valley's loss, they say, could be their gain.

In Mexico, states with growing regional tech hubs, like Jalisco, have been redoubling their efforts to attract talent and investment in recent months, peddling a philosophy of openness that departs from what Mr. Sandoval called Mr. Trump's "xenophobia" and "lack of global vision."

The efforts have included visits by Jalisco officials to the San Francisco Bay Area and to Europe. The San Francisco Chronicle published an op-ed piece by Mr. Sandoval pitching the advantages of doing business in his state.

The officials herald Mexico's proximity to Silicon Valley, its alignment with time zones in the United States and its lower cost of living. They are also sweetening the invitation with enticements like tax incentives and promises of full government cooperation., a new promotional website, says "We want you." and "Innovation has no borders." But Mr. Trump's immigration policies, said Jaime Reyes Robles, Jalisco's secretary of innovation, science and technology, have been "our best marketing."

For decades, Jalisco was mainly a center for tech manufacturing. But as its talent pool has expanded, fed by highly regarded engineering programs at local universities, it has increasingly become a place for high-tech innovation.

Andy Kieffer, an American entrepreneur who runs Agave Lab, a venture capital firm in Guadalajara, said that when he was seeking investors in Silicon Valley several years ago, he was waved off.

"I couldn't get anyone to look at Mexico," he recalled. "They said, 'Look, I don't know anything about Mexico. It's off my radar.'"

But in the past several months, he said, interest among investors has shot up.

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