Former Mexican President Vicente Fox formally signed an agreement to partner with Tucson on a project to incubate startup businesses and replicate a community college program south of the border.

The partnership was first proposed to Fox during a visit in Guanajuato, Mexico in October, in which Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Startup Tucson CEO Justin Williams led a delegation to ask for his assistance and invite him to Tucson.

On Friday, Fox made good on the promise to visit and spent 25 hours in town, touring Pima Community College, the University of Arizona and meeting with some startup tech companies in the area.

“I foresee Mexican companies setting up in Tucson and the city being a trampoline to the rest of the world,” Fox said during an interview before flying home Friday afternoon. “Tucson will be the platform to launch startups from Mexico who will come here to incubate and learn how to enter the world market.”

The aim of the pilot program is to identify Mexican companies poised to grow and export and mentor them in Tucson for up to two years on entering the global market.

The benefit to Tucson is to become the U.S. headquarters for these companies and the benefit to Mexican businesses is the access to the experience of entrepreneurs who have come up through Startup Tucson.

Fox, who was Mexico’s president from 2000 to 2006, said it was a first-of-its kind partnership between the two countries.

He also plans to launch a two-year community college program at his foundation Centro Fox, with the guidance of PCC.

“This is a movement of hope,” he said. “We want to return optimism to the country.”

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@tucson.com.