Industrial Parks Part of New Business Landscape
The creation of the export-oriented maquiladora program in 1964 served as the catalyst for the continuing development of industrial infrastructure in the northern regions of Mexico. As more foreign companies began to dot the manufacturing landscape, a need arose to construct industrial parks that could house these maquiladora companies. The Mexican Association of Industrial Parks (AMPIP) traces its roots to this boom and was created to represent industrial real estate developers in Mexico, but for its President Rodolfo Balmaceda, the maquiladora program was not the only game changer. “The signing of FTAs changed the dynamics of the industry. Traditionally in the border regions, technology and innovation trickled down from the US, but with open borders and opportunities piling up, their development grew exponentially across Mexico.”
“When describing a Mexican industrial park, the image conveyed is normally of a private land with a group of buildings that provide utility services,” explains Balmaceda. The most striking characteristic that distinguishes Mexican parks from the rest is that they are almost entirely being developed by the private sector, an aspect that has not put off the automotive companies. Balmaceda attributes the scarce involvement of the government to the lack of necessary knowhow to build them. “The money the government invested on the development of its own industrial parks ended up being wasted, so they left the development to the hands of the private sector,” he explains. This has put Mexico’s industrial park proposals for industries like automotive and aerospace on a different footing than those in other countries. “In China, for example, the government has invested in transforming industrial parks into industrial areas containing universities, R&D centers, office buildings and even housing,” he says. To match this worldwide development, the priorities of industrial parks are now being governed by a triple helix of education, private and public sectors. This translates into private companies building and providing the parks, the government attracting companies through incentives, and universities providing a steady supply of well-trained labor. “By understanding all of this, AMPIP is an integral part of this new triple helix era where added value is the name of the game,” Balmaceda notes.
“Years ago, we tried to incorporate R&D into the parks and transform them from industrial into technological parks by ourselves but we swiftly realized we needed the support from the government to have a chance of success.” Faced with the need for increased collaboration, AMPIP now creates synergies between companies and even industries, achieved by grouping firms together to help them share their knowledge and knowhow. This has seen AMPIP create links across industries. “For example, a British company named Bodycote was a supplier of thermal processing services for GM in the automotive industry. We noticed that its services were also relevant to the aerospace industry, so we helped the company establish ties with Safran,” he adds. AMPIP has developed the flexibility to take on new roles as needed. For example, Balmaceda describes that “AMPIP did not only want to represent developers and industrial parks but the rest of the variables connected to them.” To do so, AMPIP also began working on the infrastructure supporting the parks. “The new national infrastructure program is very ambitious and AMPIP has a definite role to play within it,” Balmaceda comments. In the past, Mexico’s transport connectivity ran mostly on a north-south axis due to strong commercial ties with the US. Later on, a need arose to connect ports on the Pacific Coast with those on the Atlantic, leading to highways and railroads crisscrossing the country. Since it is essential for industrial parks to be built close to existing infrastructure, AMPIP’s role has been to help improve the efficiency of said infrastructure. “We look beyond our parks in order to see how we can improve the efficiency of the entire supply chain, for automotive and beyond,” he adds.
Besides the national infrastructure program, a new study financed by the Inter-American Development Bank, called National Logistics Platform, found that Mexico had 85 major logistics hubs. Out of those, 10 will receive strong investments from the government to improve their infrastructure. “We are working alongside this program to make sure that it all comes together with the ultimate goal of helping improve the flow of goods within Mexico,” says Balmaceda.