Luis Fernandez

Vice president and director for the paint and coatings business group at Philadelphia-headquartered Rohm and Haas, which has $2 billion in annual sales.

My other car's an aisle seat:

When Fernandez's precocious daughter, Lorena, was 2 years old, she would do a call-and-response routine with her mother to show that she knew where all of her little friends lived in the family's Mexico City neighborhood.

"Where does Jorge live?" her mother would ask, and Lorena would point: "Over there."

"Where does Pepe live?"

"Pepe lives over there."

One day her mother asked, "Where does daddy live?"

Lorena replied: "On an airplane."

His itinerary thus far: Fernandez was born and educated in Mexico, with an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Mexico City's Universidad Iberoamericana. Rohm and Haas brought him to Philadelphia to train as a manager during the late 1980s, then posted him around the world, overseeing marketing and regional business operations from offices in Mexico, Brazil, England and France.

He's been the chemical company's regional director for Latin America and its worldwide business director for plastics additives.

Fernandez is fluent in Spanish, English, Portuguese and French. In addition to his daughter, Lorena, who's now 14, he and his wife, Martha Duran Angel, also have a 6-year-old son, Jose Pablo, who was born in Paris.

Doing business on the world stage: Until now, about 1 billion of the world's 6 billion people have been consumers, Fernandez says. Billions more are quickly joining those ranks, in China and India, especially.

Connecting with these new customers means developing an openness to difference, he says - if exotic foods make you squeamish, get over it - and connecting with your company's far-flung affiliates means keeping very, very flexible hours.

Fernandez carves out time for his wife and children and for Sunday Mass at St. Helena Church, in Blue Bell, where he lives. Family and faith are two bedrock Latino values, he notes. But he's completely at peace with Sunday night teleconferences to Asia and wee-hour phone calls from Australia. "It's a mindset that people need to think of," he says. "You're not working 24/7, but you're available 24/7."

On Philly as a nexus for global business: On the plus side, the city basks in the glow of Penn's internationally renowned Wharton School, Fernandez says. We're also a more desirable post for expatriate MBAs than, say, Jakarta, and our communications infrastructure is world-class. Fernandez often joins international teleconferences from the comfort of his home. He can also share files and presentations from there with colleagues around the world.

The biggest negative: "The airport," he says - specifically because it lacks direct flights to continents other than Europe. "I cannot fly to Mexico City from here. I cannot fly to Asia from here - not to a single place. If there's a barrier to doing business internationally, it's that Philadelphia is hard to get to."

In the World Cup: Fernandez, a serious soccer fan, roots first and foremost for Mexico. But he also backs Brazil since he lived there briefly and since that country's national team is actually capable of winning.

He plays on the Rohm and Haas soccer team - usually off the bench. "I'm not very good," he says, smiling. "The thing is, they always let me play since I'm a vice president of the company."

- Becky Batcha,
Daily News staff writer

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