Red McCombs sits in attendance of an AEM luncheon at the Southwest School of Art. Photo by Scott Ball.
Red McCombs built his car dealerships into a billion-dollar business empire that included radio stations and professional sports teams. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Most Texans are familiar with Red McCombs as the chair of McCombs Enterprises and a major philanthropist, but the successful businessman is looking to encourage a new generation of entrepreneurs through The Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos (AEM).

Hundreds of business representatives attended the special AEM luncheon honoring McCombs and Marcelo Sanchez, president of Schutz International Corporation and AEM co-chair, for their years of service to the San Antonio business community on Thursday. The luncheon was hosted inside the Coates Chapel at the Southwest School of Art and sponsored by organizations and businesses including Northwestern Mutual, AeroMexico and the St. Anthony’s Hotel.

McCombs joined AEM San Antonio’s efforts in early 2015, sponsoring luncheons with political, economic and cultural speakers. The lunches have helped attract new businesses and international entrepreneurs to the organization. 

When (Sanchez) came and asked me if I would join you to help facilitate the growth of the AEM, I didn’t hesitate,” McCombs said. “ I knew it was going to be for the betterment of the community, the association, the business of Mexico and the business of the United States.”

Red McCombs (center) addresses the crowd at the AEM lunch series. Photo by Scott Ball.
Red McCombs (center) addresses the crowd at the AEM luncheon with Southwest School of Art President Paula Owen (right) and fellow honoree, AEM Co-Chair Marcelo Sanchez. Photo by Scott Ball.

The AEM was established by Mexican entrepreneurs to help Mexican businesses succeed in the United States by guiding them through American business culture and vice versa.

“We had the challenge of learning how to do business when we moved to the United States,” said AEM founding board member and President Roberto Espinosa. “Now those American businesses that want to do business in Mexico are going to face the same challenge we faced; it’s another country and another culture.”

AEM Co-Chair Marcelo Sanchez is recognized is recognized for years of service to integrate the Mexican business community with San Antonio. Photo by Scott Ball.
AEM Co-Chair Marcelo Sanchez is recognized is recognized for years of service to integrate the Mexican business community with San Antonio. Photo by Scott Ball.

Since 1996, the AEM organization has expanded to include 26 chapters throughout the United States and Mexico, with San Antonio serving as a central hub. AEM members like Sanchez have created events and committees to strengthen the various business, political and cultural interests shared by Mexico and the United States.

The AEM is not defined by a single industry, but the organization has developed special committees that focus on growing sectors like energy. Officials are able to oversee production development while coordinating new possible business relationships between Mexico and the United States.

“We are letting that entrepreneurial spirit create that spark of economic development,”  Espinosa said. “We let entrepreneurs connect among themselves, and create that opportunity for growth, those jobs and prosperity for the city.”

Following the awards ceremony, attendees moved to the courtyard to enjoy hot coffee from Café Punta del Cielo, and watch the unveiling of “El Hombre Universal,” a sculpture created by Mexican artist Jorge Marín.

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The Mexican Consulate General in San Antonio collaborated with several organizations including the San Antonio-Mexico Friendship Council and AEM to bring the series of sculpture to San Antonio, eight of which remain on view at the Botanical Garden until February 2016. The sculpture unveiled at the Southwest School of Art will remain on view until April 2016. 

“The one thing I take away from this is the power of relationships and relationship building,” said Sherry Dowlatshahi, chief of protocol for the City’s International Relations Office. “What we are going to unveil today is a result of that relationship between our organizations.”

Dowlatshahi also serves as vice president of the San Antonio-Mexico Friendship Council

A guest holds up a cup of coffee from Cafe Punta del Cielo. Photo by Scott Ball.
A guest holds up a cup of coffee from Cafe Punta del Cielo. Photo by Scott Ball.

AEM has also partnered with organizations like the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to promote new businesses like Café Punta del Cielo. Although Café Punta del Cielo operates more than 150 coffee shops in Mexico, the store at Stone Oak represents the company’s first business in the United States. The cafe was previously located on Houston Street downtown. 

“For them it’s a great way to showcase their product and the quality of what they do, and for us it’s an opportunity to enjoy a nice cup of coffee on a beautiful afternoon like this,” Espinosa said.

The AEM will host several business and networking events in November, including a mixer at Alamo Beer on Nov. 12, and a golf tournament at the Alamo Quarry on Nov. 13. Click here to learn more about upcoming events or membership opportunities.

*Top image: Red McCombs during the AEM luncheon at the Southwest School of Art.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Lea Thompson is a Texas native who has lived in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. She enjoys exploring new food and culture events. Follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter or Culture Spoon.