Making a difference in San Felipe
Pat Butler is the owner and operator of El Dorado Ranch in San Felipe. A huge subdivision of over 300,000 acres adjoining the Sea of Cortez, seven miles north of the village of San Felipe. This is clearly the most successful real estate story in Baja California . El Dorado ranch has 5000 U.S./Canadian lot owners and thousands of homes have been completed by Butler & company.
A new section of the san felipe ranch is currently in development that includes 500 beach and ocean view homes, a 250 room hotel and a couple of golf courses. Mr. Butler’s company also purchased two additional hotels in town for a total of another 200 rooms. These rooms are very much needed to house the over 200 prospective buyers who came every weekend to buy property at El Dorado Ranch.
A soft spoken man, who carefully chooses his words, he is typically attired in western vest and jeans. His halting speech pattern and informal dress creates an illusion of a laid back, country boy. The truth is Pat is a sophisticated and highly competitive, former pro football player turned businessman. A hard driving entrepreneur who earned an M.B.A. from Loyola and led what was perhaps the first management buyout of a Fortune 500 company in U.S. corporate history.
I looked up entrepreneur in the dictionary and, just as I suspected, there was Pat’s picture. At age 24 he bought his first company, a food distribution business in Puerto Rico. He took that business from bankruptcy to success in five years and sold it at a handsome profit.
Pat, like so many successful folks, is driven by dreams and the desire to contribute. Money is only a way of keeping score and the engine that drives the dream. In 20 years of living in Baja I have watched the majority of Baja developers, both U.S. and Mexicanos, fail. Given the poor success rate, I asked Pat why he was willing to give up a comfortable career in the states for the high risk of doing a huge real estate venture in San Felipe Mexico . His response was he knew of no other place in the United States where he could make such a major difference to a community.
San Felipe is a fishing village of 17,000 people. El Dorado Ranch employs over 600 folks, making it the town’s largest employer. The ranch provides millions of dollars in contracts to local product -service providers. Pat provided the funds to establish the not for profit internet café, operated by volunteer gringo retirees. The café maintains the official San Felipe website and provides free computer literacy instruction for students and adults. Pat’s philanthropic efforts, along with the “Amigas of San Felipe”, have resulted in 225 scholarships a year to worthy San Felipe students.
I personally, have been the recipient of Pat’s generosity. For five years I struggled to maintain a radio program called Mexico Today. At the height of our success we had 33 U.S. radio stations and three in Mexico broadcasting the program. It was a hit with a small audience but not successful enough to cover all the production and administrative costs.
Pat liked the program and its objective of informing and educating the English language listener about Mexico. When I could no longer afford to “carry” the show, Pat began giving me the one thousand dollars a month I needed. I did not ask Pat for help and he asked for nothing in return. He did it because it seemed the right thing to do.
While Pat’s right brain keeps on dreaming his left brain is focused on business success and above all on MARKETING. Pat likes to point out: “Where else in the world can you find a spot like San Felipe?: 10,000 ft. Mountain ranges adjoining a warm sea with unending miles of white sand beach. Within a 10 hour drive radius of the ranch exists a market population of 35 million people.” It sounds so easy when Pat explains it. That is what makes him such a pro. He talks and acts like “everyman” with his easy, slow manner. But no other developer has been as successful in selling “the baja real estate” to wary gringo buyers. Pat’s marketing genius includes a clear understanding of the U.S. – Canadian buyer’s needs and most important, fears about Mexico .
Many of Pat’s prospective buyers are developed in R.V. and Home Shows where his U.S. sales staff present the Ranch at over 45 shows annually nation. During the course of the show, El Dorado Sales People offer attendees a caravan led trip to El Dorado direct from the show’s location. RV and Home show enthusiasts are a demographic made up of mostly retirees or soon to be retirees. Pat points out that Mexico leads all other nations with 600,000 U.S. ex patriots living in Mexico, most of them retirees.
Understanding the gringos fear of driving a $50,000 – $500,000 vehicle into Mexico , they are provided Mexican auto insurance and a Mexicali police escort crossing the border and through the city. At the Mexicali city limit the caravan is met by the “Green Angels” who provide escort for the continuation of the trip, including a return trip back to the U.S. border at the end of their visit.
The Green Angels are well known by grateful motorists who are veteran Baja travelers. They patrol the highways and byways of Mexico with fully equipped vans to do vehicle repairs for stranded motorists. If they can’t fix the problem, on the spot, they will tow you to the nearest garage. This is a free service to all travelers in Mexico. Butler, a first rate salesman, you can’t discern when he’s selling, convinced the police and Green Angels to offer these special escort privileges as a boost to tourism.
Pat and the Ranch’s good citizenship are appreciated by Baja officials who recognize El Dorado’s community develpment efforts. The economy of San Felipe is enriched by the Ranch bringing 50,000 extra tourists a year to the village. Aside from more tourists, it is estimated that one half of the 7,000 retired U.S. citizens, living in San Felipe, discovered the village via an El Dorado promoted getaway.
These 7,000 U.S. retirees, in a pueblo of 17,000, have made a big difference to the economy.
In developing the ranch into a major subdivision the County of Mexicali and The State of Baja California realized a huge windfall of tax revenue. Taxes, that did not exist until the ranch became formalized with each lot registered under the bank trusts designed for foreign ownership in Mexico.
Always ready to risk losing money to make money Pat hass expanded the tourist caravan concept by refurbishing a DC-3 airplane with service from San Francisco. Risk taking, marketing skills and, most import to Pat’s success, is his commitment to everyone winning in every deal.
Recipients of his win-win way of doing business in San Felipe are the peasant land owners who sold the Ranch to Butler. Each of the 216 families received a generous cash amount and still maintain ownership of more than two thousand acres per family.
San Felipe’s business people are treated with professional respect and marketing assist, in addition to lucrative contracts with El Dorado. Students win from his monetary and internet contributions and Baja’s political leadership win from his commitment and genius in promoting the state.
In addition to Mexicanos winning – U.S. retirees received resources and infrastructure from Pat that enabled them to be more involved in helping their adopted community of San Felipe. Retirees who are contributing to the education of San Felipe’s young people with time and money. Pat states it this way: “I love the integration we have been able to achieve here in San Felipe of the gringo retirement community with the local Mexicanos. This is a platform from which we can greatly contribute to Vicente Fox’s stated objective of providing the skills and resources to improve the future for the poor and disenfranchised of Mexico.”
Yes Pat you succeeded in “Making a Difference”. Thanks pal, for being a dreamer with a talent for success.