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Booming Mexican Aerospace Industry Raises Demand for Raw Materials

02 May 2012

Mexico is steeling for exponential growth as an aerospace industry leader – and everyone is paying attention, a field executive notes.

Carlos Bello is executive director of Federación Mexicana de Industria Aerospacial, or FEMIA, Mexico’s equivalent to the U.S. Aerospace Industries Association. He has seen many changes in FEMIA’s four-year history and expects development to continue as aircraft manufacturing accelerates in Mexico.

Bello says there is a huge demand in Mexico’s aerospace industry for raw materials, such as specialty steels, aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber, along with chemicals for composites and special machining.

“We are making a strong effort to attract these types of aerospace suppliers; we are currently importing most of these products,” he explains. “We want to really work hard so that all of these products are available for the aerospace manufacturers in Mexico. These suppliers have a significantly sized market to approach, as we import over $200 million of aerospace components per year.”

Sixteen states employing some 29,000 workers have aerospace companies in Mexico, with the five clusters of industry divided between Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Monterrey and Queretaro, grouped in three areas: the Northeast, Northwest and Central regions of Mexico. Of the aerospace companies doing business in Mexico, Bello says, 75 percent are manufacturers – with top products including harnesses, fuselages, landing gears, parts, turbines and composites – while 11 percent are maintenance, repair and operations (MROs). Ten percent focus on design and engineering.

“We’ve been experiencing a growth rate of about 20 percent per year, with the exception of 2009, which was a critical year for the aerospace industry worldwide,” he explains. “However, in 2010, we started to recover. We’re estimating that, in the next five years, there will be 350 aerospace companies in Mexico, employing over 37,000 workers.”

The Mexican government cites its country as the 10th-largest supplier of aerospace products to the States, beating out China, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Malaysia. Foreign investment in Mexico’s aerospace industry hit $1.15 billion in 2010, putting the country ahead of competitors for the second consecutive year.

Bello has theories for the dynamic growth. One factor is Mexico’s proximity to North America, the world’s largest market, which controls between 60 and 65 percent of the global aerospace industry. Another point to consider, he says, is Mexico’s cost-competitive workforce.

An Industry Week article supports the FEMIA head’s observation, noting wages for a quality Mexican machinist come in at an attractive $25 per day, compared to the $20- to $50-per-hour wages paid in America or Canada. (A quoted metal-processing services executive notes Mexican workers in this field are “as capable and comparable to engineers you will find in the U.S. or Canada.”)

Bello confirms FEMIA is doing its part to ensure Mexico’s aerospace industry remains vigorous. The organization has accessed government grants helping to fund 70 percent of certification costs for aerospace companies in Mexico, has established a supply chain program for suppliers working in Mexico, and also is developing other commissions to analyze and develop opportunities for aerospace companies doing business in Mexico.

Additionally, FEMIA expects to unveil its National Strategic Plan for Mexico’s aerospace industry – helping to guide business practices through the next decade – by the end of May.

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