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Dallas 500

Meet the Dallas 500: Albert Zapanta, U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce

The president and CEO of the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce talks about his time as an Army Rangers, the current political climate, and his experience as an extra in New York Ballet's rendition of Scheherazade.
By D CEO editorial team |

Al Zapanta leads the Dallas-based U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, which was formed to build trade and investment relationships between the two countries. The chamber celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2023 and continues to grow in relevance and size, now generating about $2 million in annual revenue. Zapanta got his start at Bethlehem Steel and went on to achieve success in both the energy industry (formerly serving as head of public affairs for ARCO and founder, chairman, and CEO of PAZ Energy) and public service (holding various roles with the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. State Department, and Reserve Forces Policy Board). Along with his current leadership role, Zapanta sits on Irving’s City Council.


University of Southern California (MPA, BA)


Los Angeles

First Job

“My first job was as an industrial engineer with Bethlehem Steel. I learned how steel is produced and about time and motion studies for efficient manufacturing.” 

Best Advice

“Work hard, be honest and ethical, and treat people the way you’d like to be treated.”

Dinner Party

“If I had to choose just two business leaders to dine with, I’d pick former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and Energy Transfer’s Kelcy Warren. They are models of success and ethical leadership.” 

Pivotal Moment

“My combat experience in Vietnam as an Army Ranger was certainly unexpected, and I handled it by coming out alive.”

Destinations of Choice

“Mexico, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Morocco, and Vietnam”

I Collect

“Guns, ancient Navajo rugs, Civil War art, and both Native American and Mexican art.”


“I walk 2 miles every other day and read fiction and nonfiction. My main hobby is big game fishing.”

Local Fare

“My favorite restaurant is Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. I always order steak. My favorite hole-in-the-wall is TacoMex, where I order carnitas street tacos.”

First Car

“A 1949 Oldsmobile”

Go-to Adviser

“Steve Nelson, an aerospace executive who established twin plants (maquilladoras) across the U.S.-Mexican border.”

Fun Fact

“I like to play practical jokes on people.”

Guilty Pleasure


Industry Change

“I would change the political parties in both the U.S. and Mexico. Current party leaders are not providing leadership for the greater good.”

A Better DFW

“I’d like to see us provide more strategic financing for small businesses.”

Walk-Up Song

“I’d probably choose ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra.”


“I recommend Talking to Strangers by Malcom Gladwell.”

Spirit Animal

“I’ll go with a jaguar; I’ll bite you if I don’t like you.”

Alternate Reality

“I’d probably be a university professor.” 

Funny Moment

“I was an extra in the New York Ballet during a performance of Scheherazade. I wasn’t dancing; I was one of the guys holding up a sword.”

Key Strategies

“If you’re leading an organization, you better understand organizational development.” 


D CEO editorial team

D CEO editorial team

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