I remember getting the call from the U.S. Department of Commerce extending an invitation to my company, Louroe Electronics, to accompany Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on her first-ever trade mission to Mexico. I was truly humbled and enthusiastic about this unique opportunity. I’ve served as the CEO of my Van Nuys company, which makes audio monitoring technology, for more than five years now and was thrilled to receive the call. It’s not every day that Washington calls upon The Valley. I was beyond excited to learn that Louroe was handpicked by the Department of Commerce – the only Southern California and sole security company selected – along with 16 other export-ready companies, to be a part of the secretary’s trade mission. The mission focused on promoting U.S exports in key industry sectors including advanced manufacturing, information and communications technology, and security products. From Feb. 3 to 7, I traveled with Secretary Pritzker to Mexico City and Monterrey alongside other leading companies including IBM Corp., Motorola Solutions Inc., Oracle Corp., LexisNexis Risk Solutions and Deloitte Consulting LLP. Our mutual goal was to promote U.S exports. This experience opened numerous doors of opportunity that would have remained closed otherwise. Secretary Pritzker made introductions to key government and private sector decision-makers in Mexico who shared with us important initiatives and how U.S. companies can assist with their development and growth. As a result of my participation in the trade mission, I was able to successfully identify five new pilot projects for Louroe that will focus on improving public safety throughout Mexico City and Monterrey. This is great news not only for Louroe but also for the Valley as the pilot programs will require us to increase our current staffing by approximately 10 percent, ultimately creating more jobs for the Valley. Moreover, I gained an understanding of the many facets of the Mexican marketplace. For us, Mexico is an important market for security and public safety. In fact, Louroe has been investing in the market for the past three years and is now being called upon directly to assist with large-scale commercial and public safety projects. As manufacturing and infrastructure continue to grow, so grows the need to protect the people and assets behind that growth. As the United States’ second-largest export market and third-largest trading partner, Mexico is a key player for the U.S. economy. In fact, more than $1.25 billion in goods and services are traded between the U.S. and Mexico every day, supporting millions of jobs in both countries. In addition, bilateral trade between the U.S. and Mexico was almost half a trillion dollars in 2012, and the United Sates exports more to Mexico than to all of Brazil, Russia, India and China combined. According to Secretary Pritzker, “95 percent of customers worldwide live outside U.S. borders, and that is why promoting exports is essential to economic growth and job creation. As part of our ‘Open for Business Agenda,’ we plan to carry out a robust schedule of trade missions all over the world.” Furthermore, according to the International Trade Administration, Mexico is California’s No.1 export market with 2012 exports totaling $26.3 billion and Mexico purchasing 16 percent of all California exports. What these compelling statistics reveal is that Valley companies need to consider expanding their business to Mexico if they haven’t already done so. I strongly urge Valley companies to look to Mexico to help grow their international client base because Mexico offers not only great proximity to Southern California but also a growing economy and a major need for products and services that Valley companies are well-equipped to provide. The most important takeaway from my participation in the trade mission is that Valley companies need to examine and evaluate what they are or what they could be doing in Mexico and then begin to implement a strategic business plan in this market to help capitalize on this growing trend. It is evident that Southern California and Mexico are business partners and Valley companies need to figure out what business opportunities are available to them in this market. Mexico will only continue to grow in 2014 and beyond, so Valley organizations should tap into Mexico now and not delay on the opportunity to build their own solid revenues and exports. Receiving the invite to attend this Mexico trade mission with Secretary Pritzker was a milestone for our company. It is important to note that we couldn’t have accomplished the increase in our U.S. business over the years without the value of the International Trade Administration within the U.S. Department of Commerce. This trade mission is a prime example of our government’s commitment to putting our tax dollars to work for the public. Richard Brent is chief executive of Louroe Electronics, a maker of sensitive microphones and other audio surveillance technology used in the private and public sector.