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Gustavo de la Fuente: Bridging the Gap Between Two Countries

November 22, 2017

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Gustavo de la Fuente is the executive director of the Smart Border Coalition. Photo courtesy of Gustavo de la Fuente.

For Gustavo de la Fuente, there is no average work day as the executive director of the Smart Border Coalition, a group that brings together leaders from San Diego and Tijuana to increase border crossing efficiency.

In between carrying out presentations, proposing new ideas, and attending meetings on both sides of the border, de la Fuente is working to increase communication and understanding between both countries.

The Smart Border Coalition is a group that bridges the gap between the United States and Mexico specifically in the San Diego-Tijuana region.

“When you bring together people from both sides of the border, interesting things happen,” de la Fuente said. “People agree on things, people can discuss matters and arrive at some kind of understanding as to what need to be done.”

It is that bridging between the two countries that de la Fuente enjoys.

Recently hired as the executive director of the coalition in March, de la Fuente is knowledgeable in the role the border plays in business, economics, and the surrounding communities.

“(The Smart Border Coalition) philosophy is one people, one border, one economy, but we have to work at it to make that happen,” de la Fuente said.

Originally from Nogales, Sonora, de la Fuente grew up on the Mexican border and has worked in different fields throughout his professional career.

He served as the CEO of a newspaper and cable television network in Mexico and is currently the CEO of Intelligent Office of San Diego.

De la Fuente earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree from Stanford University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.

He joined the Smart Border Coalition in January, and he said he loved the idea of the organization.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity for our region to become an innovator as far as border flows: people, cargo, (and) pedestrians,” de la Fuente said.

He said there is an interesting combination of people on both sides of the border and from different organizations ranging from non profit to government agencies from both countries that are involved in the coalition.

There are several challenges for binational leaders and organizations that de la Fuente identifies and those include encouraging communication and not being dependent on governments.

He said it is important to encourage communication so that stakeholders can determine what they want, what is feasible and what can be done.

De la Fuente said traditionally organizations have depended on governmental agencies to solve challenges at the border, but he believes those involved need to understand the process, logistics, and funding for what needs to be done at the border without depending on what the government can do.

“There’s a need for civil society, such as the Smart Border Coalition, and other binational organizations, as well as the need for private enterprise to look at the challenges that we have together with the government, to come up with solutions,” he said.

Despite those challenges, de la Fuente said his goal is to find new ways to finance or bring resources to the improvement of the ports and to the implementation of new technologies near and at the ports.

“At the end of the day it’s working together to create better border flows,” he said. “It’s through communication, through trust, and bridging the cultural divide that we are going to be able to be successful.”

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