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UT Pan American to host Latin American business conference on South Padre Island April 1-4
Posted: 03/13/1998
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The University of Texas-Pan American will host the international Business Association of Latin American Studies (BALAS) conference April 1-4 on South Padre Island, Texas.

"BALAS is a world-wide organization focusing on Latin American business and research," said Dr. Gilberto de los Santos, professor in the College of Business Administration at UT Pan American and conference coordinator. "It has about 600 professors of business administration worldwide, mostly from Latin America and North America, as members.

"This is a chance to share our research and learn from the extensive business and economic research of other scholars," he said.

In addition to 250 to 300 faculty scholars, 30 to 40 representatives from corporations with a strong presence in Latin America (those earning more than $100 million in annual revenue in Latin America) and top graduate students from all over the United States and Latin America are expected to attend the conference, which will be held in the Sheraton Fiesta Hotel.

Conference activities will include peer reviewed paper presentations and special topics forums in English, Spanish and Portuguese, a Ph.D. students' consortium, an M.B.A. students' forum and a tour of TRICO, a modern maquiladora manufacturing plant, in both Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico.

This year's gathering will include, for the first time, a pre-conference international job exposition for undergraduate and graduate students April 1.

Three Hispanic business leaders have been selected as speakers for the conference.

Brownsville native Carlos Cantu, president and chief executive officer of The ServiceMaster Company, will address the group at noon on April 2 as the keynote speaker for the overall conference. The ServiceMaster Company provides supportive management services to about 2,500 health care, educational and commercial customers and consumer services to almost six million customers under the names TruGreen/ChemLawn, Terminix, American Home Shield, ServiceMaster Residential and Commercial Services, Merry Maids, AmeriSpec and Furniture Medic. International ServiceMaster locations include Spain, Mexico and Brazil.

Cantu joined ServiceMaster in 1986 when it acquired Terminix. He began his career with Cook Industries Agri-Products Group based in Mexico. In 1970, he joined Terminix International, then a subsidiary of Cook, and held various management and executive positions before being appointed president in 1978. Before being elected CEO of ServiceMaster, he was president and CEO of Consumer Services, a subsidiary of ServiceMaster. Under his leadership, Consumer Services more than doubled the number of customers it served.

Two speakers have been scheduled for the M.B.A. Forum April 1 - John C. Guerra Jr. of AT&T and Gus Garcia of Kraft Foods Inc., both the highest ranking Hispanics at their respective corporations.

As vice president and general manager of business local services for the Southwest Region, Guerra is responsible for AT&T's local telephone service offerings to business customers in Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. A native of Corpus Christi, he has more than 24 years experience in the telecommunications industry. He returned to Texas in 1996 after serving as AT&T vice president and managing director for the Caribbean and Latin American markets, with responsibilities including new market development and operations in Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Guerra is a member of the UT Pan American Foundation Board of Trustees.

Garcia is director of ethnic external relations for Kraft and is responsible for promoting the positive image and goodwill of the company and its products with ethnic external constituencies. He oversees philanthropic efforts with major organizations, directs ethnic media and public relations strategy and builds alliances with strategic organizations. He currently serves as the chair of the League of United Latin American Citizens Strategic Alliance Board and is the corporate liaison on the Corporate Board of Advisors for the National Council of La Raza.

BALAS is the first national business and economics professional association to focus exclusively on the study of commerce and industry in Latin America and the Caribbean. Membership consists of academicians with primary interest in any business-related topic and managers of business firms and not-for-profit organizations, plus anyone who has an interest in Latin American business or economics topics. The organization is strongly international in character, with more than 600 members from 24 countries.

BALAS developed in response to a perceived need to bring together individuals in traditionally distinctive fields - management, marketing, finance, production, accounting, economics, law, government, education, political science, area studies, geography, sociology, etc. - who have common interests concerning issues that affect the business environment of domestic and global enterprises operating in the Latin American region. The organization offers a range of scholarly and professional organization activities - annual conferences that provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, refereed Proceeding of the Annual Meeting, awards for outstanding papers, and a periodic newsletter.

This year's BALAS conference is co-sponsored by H-E-B Grocery Co. and International Bank of Commerce.

Recent conferences have been held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil; Monterrey, Mexico; Washington, D.C.; and Miami, Fla. Next year's conference will be in New Orleans, La., hosted by Loyola University.

"I think the conference this year will be the best we've ever had," de los Santos said. "We've broken the record in the number of papers reviewed. The previous best was 158, and there are 239 papers this year to be considered. We expect a record number of people to attend, and we will give them the best of South Texas."

For more information on the upcoming BALAS conference, please call de los Santos at 956/381-3389.