Saturday, September 29, 2012

Behind the Model Cities Memorandum of Understanding

There's a lot of misinformation floating around about who is behind the Honduras Model Cities memorandum of opportunity (MOU).  This is the agreement, announced by Juan Orlando Hernandez of the Honduran Congress, that would authorize a specific group of investors to build the first such enclave in Honduras.

So here's what we can find out:

Grupo MGK  (note, not NKG, NGK, or MKG as the careless or perhaps terminally dyslexic Honduran papers keep reporting) is the consortium behind the memorandum of understanding signed last week with Honduras to develop a model city.

The group, whose bare bones generic website (in English and Spanish) was hastily erected in the last week, claims to have developed plans for a model city-like project in Estonia, but shelved it upon hearing of the Honduran opportunity.

Their new website has already been updated since it was first made public. Michael Strong registered the domain name with GoDaddy on September 8. The website was last updated on September 21.

There are currently four public faces for Grupo MGK:  Michael Strong, Gabriel Delgado, Robert Haywood, and Nadine Spencer.

Michael Strong reportedly studied economics at the University of Chicago, but dropped out of the graduate program when he was offered a job teaching his socratic training seminar to teachers in Homer, Alaska. This in turn, led to a 15 year career in education consulting.

Strong met John Mackey, the founder of Whole Foods, during this period, and together they founded Freedom Lights Our World (FLOW), dedicated to the proposition that entrepeneurs and markets were the most effective way of creating a better world.  They have since moved on to more targeted projects: Conscious Capitalism, Radical Social Entrepeneurs, and Peace Through Commerce.

Strong is also a founder of the Free Cities Institute, whose website, described as "gorgeous" in this announcement of its founding, has since disappeared.  Free Cities were the focus of a conference held in Guatemala in April 2011, sponsored by the Universidad Francisco Marroquin, in Guatemala.

All of these movements share the idea that bad legal systems create poverty by keeping poor people from founding businesses and therefore keeping them off the road to wealth and success.

Robert Haywood is Director of the World Economic Processing Zones Association (WEPZA), a collective for Free Trade Zones world wide.  WEPZA was founded by Richard Bolin, who performed the economic studies that led to the development of Mexico's maquila industry.  WEPZA is a dependency of Bolin's Flagstaff Institute.  Haywood is said to have participated in the design and development of Honduras's maquilas as well.

Nadine Spencer is an entrepeneur, born in Jamaica, who is founder and CEO of Nadine Spencer, Inc. a gourmet food and lifestyles conglomerate.  Her expertise is in marketing.  She particularly supports work to develop women entrepeneurs.

Gabriel Delgado is described as a telecommunications entrepeneur and fellow in the Aspen Institute, an education and policy studies nonprofit that is generally described as "centrist".  He reportedly founded and developed IT companies in Chile, Guatemala, and Mexico.

On the website, Strong and Delgado are described as the "Leadership" while Haywood and Spencer are described as "advisors".  Delgado was added to the Leadership section in a round of revisions to the website.  His name has not previously appeared associated with Grupo MGK.

Grupo MGK lists a single investor, Calidad Immobiliria, a real estate development company located in Guatemala and El Salvador, a branch of Grupo Entero. The real estate company specializes in urban development projects.

Grupo Entero is a Guatemalan company founded using the principles of Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to develop its own staff.  They focus on commercial and residential real estate, construction, and health in large parts of Latin America.

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