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Aerospace Metal-Plating Soars in Mexico

27 Nov 2012

An executive predicting exponential growth for his U.S.-based company after locating a sister plant in Mexico now is watching business take off.

“To be honest with you, I see another metal-plating plant in Mexico in INCERTEC’s future,” notes Tim Meador, company president and CEO. “With all of the aerospace industry moving into Mexico here, and to places as far south as Guadalajara as well, I think there’s going to be a need for another plant just like this south of here at some time in the not-too-distant future.”

Based in Fridley, Minn., INCERTEC provides specialty plating and metal-finishing services not only for flight technology but also to benefit national defense and medical needs. This year, its Mexico facility in Empalme, Sonora, has experienced staggering growth. In January, its plating and plastics operations in Mexico became viable, and the Empalme location also received its nondestructive testing (NDT) process certification. More recently, INCERTEC received certification to perform secondary operations (plating and metal-finishing processes) on all of the aerospace parts in Mexico.

With more than 260 aerospace companies now operational in Mexico and industry exports of some $4.3 billion posted in 2011, the country is claiming its spot as an aeronautical manufacturer on the world stage. In fact, the Mexican government projects aerospace exports will total $12 billion by 2020 – placing Mexico ahead of Brazil and Spain.

While the metal-plating industry is not new to Mexico, Meador has some thoughts about INCERTEC’s success.

“Being a ‘job shop’ for plating is new to Mexico,” the CEO explains. “Most of the plating companies in Mexico are captured, vertically integrated companies. We are now offering that service to everybody. In offering our metal plating expertise in Mexico, we’ll be dealing with customers all the way from Nogales to Obregon and even as far into the interior of Mexico as Guadalajara.”

Meador, who says the Empalme facility is mainly “dedicated to aerospace manufacturers in Mexico,” claims certain aspects of Mexican aerospace manufacturing could not occur prior to the company’s presence there.

“As a matter of fact, a lot of aerospace companies in Mexico stopped because they didn’t have access to these important capabilities: value-added services like metal-plating, heat treating and everything related,” he explains. “What we’re adding to that mix is enabling them to expand their aerospace-manufacturing businesses in Mexico and giving them the savings of not having to ship parts to the States for plating or any other type of conversion.”

And for those who say INCERTEC’s move to Mexico is taking jobs out of American hands, Meador has a couple of points to share.

“In my industry, metal plating is on a decline somewhere on 4 to 6 percent annually, and most of that is because the work that needs to be plated is no longer manufactured in the United States,” he says. “I always use the analogy of the tail of the dog. The dog has already moved across the border; we’re just offering the metal-plating services that are needed here in Mexico.

“At our Minnesota facility, our sales are actually up 15 percent,” Meador continues. “We’re on a growth path there, and this additional work from Mexico is just going to help us. Resources and research and development will always have to be done at our Twin Cities facility, and we’ll probably be adding people in Fridley to start all of the onboarding of metal products we’re going to process down in Mexico.

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