A new direct flight between Denver and Mexico City - the only one year round - is sparking a new desire for an increase in trade and business relationships with Mexico.

"I'm thrilled about the flight," said Guillermo "Bill" Vidal, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce."The fact that Volaris is going to have this direct flight really does open the door to the business side in knowing that you can rely on going to Mexico year round."

The Volaris flight was inaugurated on Dec. 8 as officials from the city and the state, including Vidal and Mayor Michael Hancock returned from a short trip to Mexico City.

"The goal was to build relationships so we could create the potential to have formal relationships in the future," said Tim Martinez, senior economic development specialist for Denver, who helped organize the trip.

Vidal added that the trip also represented a major attempt at collaboration, to see how well organizations like the chamber could work with the state and city to piece together the resources each offer.

On both measures, the men agreed the trip was a success.

Mexico is already Colorado's second largest trading partner, and their position as third largest trading partner with the U.S. is also steadily growing.

The Mexican economy is currently ranked as the 13th largest global economy and the 11th in purchasing power. By 2050, Goldman Sachs expects Mexico's economy will be ranked as the 5th largest.

Colorado exports to Mexico totaled more than $754 million in 2011 with agriculture products including meats and cheeses among the top exports. Also in 2011, Colorado imported more than $682 million worth of products from Mexico including X-ray plates, and road tractors for semi-trailers, according to information from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

The most recent numbers for 2012 show data through September already outpacing what had been traded in September last year.

Stephanie Garnica, the state's director of trade and investment for the Americas, said one of the largest growing demands from Mexico is for green technology - a result of a growing wave of governmental attention to environmental issues and a lack of their own production in the industry.

"Colorado has a good reputation in Mexico as a provider for those goods," Garnica said. "There's a lot support and growing demand."

While in Mexico City, Garnica said officials met with a handful of companies looking at Colorado as a possible place to expand partnerships.

Though she couldn't specify which companies those were, she said they included companies in the real estate sector as well as a candy company.

Consul General of Mexico Andrés Chao, who was also on the trip, said that he expects the Volaris flight to facilitate more connections among companies that already see the possibilities as attractive.

And while there are ways to communicate from long distance through technology, making these connections in person is still critical.

"I would not be the same through technology," Chao said.

But flights before the new Volaris flight weren't business friendly.

"If you wanted to go to Mexico before it took you eight to nine hours, which for business meetings becomes very complicated," Chao said. "You lose a day getting there and another day coming back."
Officials said they would like to see more flights added during weekdays, and think it's a possibility if Volaris sees enough demand.

Vidal and Martinez said they were both surprised that Mexican business owners and officials didn't realize that Colorado's population of Hispanics had grown so much in recent years to more than 20 percent.

"There's a growing middle class who need services and products. It's just a wonderful opportunity to expand our horizons," Vidal said. "The fact that we are also Latinos, and we share the culture and language, it makes it a natural connection with those communities."