Miratek Corp. is speeding up service to its clients by taking advantage of the open borders created by NAFTA and stationing its information-technology-services staff on both sides of the US-Mexican border.
The Inner City 100
Some people do learn practical things in college. Take Joe Diaz. While studying for his M.B.A. at the University of North Texas, in the early 1980s, Diaz was research assistant to a professor who was a vigorous proponent of the free movement of goods and services between the United States and Mexico. "He was predicting an open border and free trade -- all the elements of NAFTA before there was NAFTA," says Diaz, president of Miratek Corp. (#22). "So I had a heads-up on what would happen."
Diaz founded Miratek, an information-technology-services company, in his hometown of El Paso in 1994, the year that the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The company is located just a few miles from the Mexican border and less than 20 miles from approximately 350 maquiladoras, the manufacturing plants owned by members of the Fortune 500 and other large corporations. These are massive operations with tons of computers and a corresponding number of computer problems -- the kinds of problems that Diaz and his staff make go away. Miratek's customer list includes Delphi Automotive, Scientific Atlanta, and Thermodisc, a division of Emerson Electric. Stateside, Diaz's company is apparently a favorite of the Department of Defense, for which it services both Fort Bliss and the White Sands Missile Range, both in El Paso.
To speed service, three Miratek employees live in Mexico; another two or three cross the border continually. But proximity doesn't always translate into convenience. Because of the need to pass through U.S. Customs, "crossing the bridge might take anywhere from half an hour to two hours," says Diaz. "Listen to the news, and they'll tell you how long the line is."
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan