Thousands of words have been written about Mexico's aerospace industry in the last decade. This has been so because the industry's growth rate has surpassed that of any other sector of the Mexican economy, and has provided the Mexican workforce with job opportunities that have never before been available. In just a short 15 year period, Mexico has taken a nascent aerospace industry and catapulted it to where, today, 300 aerospace manufacturing companies in Mexico now employ some 30,000 individuals.
Far from being a fluke, however, the promotion of aerospace manufacturing in Mexico has been a part of governmental and private-sector strategy dating back to the 1990's, when the Mexican federal government realized that its educated labor-pool, lower wages and proximity to the United States were the perfect match for building planes in Mexico.
Today, one sees the results of the strategy implemented by the federal Secretary of Economy (Secretaría de Economía), whose globe-trotting, poly-lingual executives from Proméxico, the ministry's foreign investment arm, foraged Europe, Canada and the United States for aerospace manufacturing opportunities. Their efforts were complemented by a legion of governors and state economic authorities, along with the staff of shelter companies in Mexico, such as The Offshore Group. With tax incentives and promises of training programs, these efforts have born fruit.
Both by accident and design, these 300 companies in aerospace manufacturing have divided Mexico into several distinct industry manufacturing, engineering and research clusters.
In the northwestern section of the country, comprised of Baja California, Sonora and Chihuahua, several dozen companies manufacture and assemble electronics systems, precision machined parts for aircraft engines, interior assembly and seats, control and navigation accessories and perform design and testing of electric systems.
In the northeast, comprised of Nuevo León, Tamaulipas and Coahuila, the emphasis has been on machining of pieces, security systems, thermal treatment of metals, engineering and hi-tech services and production of connectors and harnesses.
In the central states, including Querétaro, Distrito Federal, San Luis Potosí, México, Puebla and Guanajuato, focus has been on construction of fuselages, landing gear, stabilizers, structures, electric harnesses, turbine components, design of turbo engines and repair of composites. In addition, these states now perform manitenance on – and assembly of -- light planes.
To support the industry, Mexico now has 90,000 graduate students enrolled in engineering and technology programs spread through some 900 graduate programs, and boasts 750,000 students focusing in college on engineering and technology. Among the leading companies in the Mexican aerospace industry today are: ITR, General Electric, Honeywell, Bombardier Aerospace, Raytheon, Cessna, Gulfstream, Bussman, Sanmina, Frisse Aerospace, Goodrich, Chomalloy, Safran, Labinal Mexico, Turbo Repair Technologies, Howmet de Mexico, Maquilas Teta Kawi, Mexicana Airlines , Indoor Air and Electronics Laurance.
Where does this lead Mexico's Aerospace Industry?
An October, 2011 speech at an aerospace manufacturing forum in Chihuahua provides a portent of things to come. If the rapid growth of the last decade continues, said Luis Olivé, chief of the Investment and International Business division of Proméxico, "by 2021 there should be a 100 percent Mexican plane."
The automotive industry in Mexico followed the same trajectory. First, Mexican companies and Big Three affiliates provided parts and services to the U.S. companies. Then, it was the entire vehicle. One need look no farther than the Ford Motor Co. plant in Hermosillo, Sonora home to one of the automotive industry’s most successful stamping and assembly plants in the world.
Those interested in learning more about the Mexican aerospace manufacturing industry will find thorough presentations online. The first, in English, is an analysis of the industry at the Proméxico website, The second, in Spanish, was done in June, 2011, by the Economy ministry's division of heavy industry and high technology in the aviation industry (Secretaría de Economía, Dirección General de Industrias Pesadas y de Alta Tecnología Industria Aeronáutica en México ).