International Idea Exchange

APWA explores feasibility of establishing chapter in Mexico

Juan J. Lopez
Manager Utilities Administration
Hillsborough County, Florida, Public Works Department

Over the years, APWA’s presidents and members of APWA’s International Affairs Committee have participated in several AMMAC Congresses. (AMMAC-Asociacion de municipios de Mexico-is a counterpart association to APWA and the National League of Cities.) In addition to giving a presentation during AMMAC’s Congress in Mazatlan, Mexico, May 17-19, APWA president Jerry Fay met with AMMAC executive director Oscar Vega to discuss a number of issues regarding the partnering agreement between the two organizations. As a result of their meeting, APWA members should expect to see an AMMAC booth, an exhibit booth of a vendor from Mexico, and several Mexican public works officials at our upcoming Congress and Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky.

A major topic of discussion between Fay, Vega, and representatives of both organizations involved the feasibility of establishing an APWA chapter in Mexico, which would be sponsored by AMMAC. Although many details would need to be resolved-such as translation services for publications, educational materials, and videoconferences-by establishing a chapter in Mexico, Mexican chapter members would be able to enjoy many of the features and benefits that APWA has to offer its chapters and members in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, the members would benefit from the availability and experience of over 26,000 professional public works members of APWA.

Similarly, there is a vast amount of information and knowledge that Mexican public works professionals can pass on to APWA members. By having one of its chapters in a country that has other ways and means of accomplishing their projects, we will be able to learn and experience the innovative approaches they use to complete their projects.

Some of the obstacles Mexico has to overcome are completely different from our ways. For example, when a particular community needed to complete a small project and the money was running out, they found it necessary to enter into a partnering agreement with the contractor whereby the work would be accomplished with the available remaining funds. The contractor donated some of the services because they were part of the community, but the work was accomplished with the remaining funds.

Another area concerns the political conditions, which for a public works official is very different from what we are used to in the U.S. and Canada; yet, they are able to accomplish major construction projects to enhance the living conditions in their communities. As some of our small communities in the U.S. and Canada struggle with funding and political issues, it may be refreshing to see how others are coping and adjusting to their circumstances.

Establishing an APWA chapter in Mexico would also bring a vast amount of opportunities to many of our members, not only in the information area but also in the business and cultural area. Through the exchanges being implemented, many opportunities will become available to our members. Construction of their projects, work, and business exchanges could become a reality for new individuals/companies.

As an example, Mexico City, which is one of the largest cities in the world with over 20 million residents, has learned to overcome the awesome challenges that come with the administration of such a large constituency. The Mexico City light rail or “Metro” moves over 10 million people per day. The challenge of the next decade will be to plan, design, and fund the construction of a new airport to serve the ever-growing metropolitan area. This could be the most complex and largest public works project of its kind. This and many other large projects offer an exciting opportunity for involvement to APWA members.

Readers of this article may want to host one of our Mexican public works officials, as several cities will be doing this year. Or you may want to volunteer to make a technical presentation at one of AMMAC’s next Congresses in Mexico, just as Bob Kass from the City of Campbell, California, did this past May in Mazatlan. You may be interested in going to Mexico for a week and working side by side with one of your colleagues. Being there, you will have firsthand knowledge of their needs and the opportunities to satisfy those needs.

A number of people and several chapters have played a very important role in exploring the feasibility of establishing a chapter in Mexico, and in trying to bring this chapter concept to reality. AMMAC and APWA are very grateful for their participation. Both organizations are currently reviewing APWA’s 2000 Chapter Resource Guide. Once this review has been analyzed, a proposal will be brought up to each respective board of directors for resolution.

Finally, you may also want to get involved with APWA’s International Affairs Committee and have the opportunity to share your ideas on how to reach the international communities discussed. Your ideas could become a reality.

Zeferino Sanchez, a consultant for the APWA/AMMAC partnership, contributed to this article. Juan Lopez can be contacted at 813-272-7021 or