Robert Neal
President
Queretaro Automotive Cluster
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View from the Top

Tripple Heliz Collaboration Supports Queretaro Suppliers

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 10:31

Q: What are the main characteristics that set the Queretaro Automotive Cluster apart?

A: The cluster’s aim is to anticipate the needs of the automotive industry in Queretaro from an educational and labor perspective. We also have a firm dedication to supplier development in order to help local companies become Tier 3 suppliers and escalate upwards. The cluster wants to set the optimum stage for businesses to operate in Queretaro through the expertise of those companies that have been here for some time. Over the last decade, the state’s economy has truly blossomed. The first day I came to Queretaro was my second day in Mexico, and my expectations were totally different from the reality. When I walked into Tremec’s facility, I was greeted with a worldclass manufacturing operation, which genuinely took my breath away. Today, Queretaro hosts companies like TRW and Delphi, while many others have recently established operations here or are planning to do so, as the state has a lot to offer. We are three and a half hours away from the Chrysler base in Toluca, and Monterrey is about five hours away. People are also attracted to Queretaro because of our links to the US, the state’s safety, the fact that the cost of real estate is not restrictive despite industrial growth, and the support of the government in the development of industrial parks.

Q: What role is triple-helix collaboration playing in the state’s development plans and how does the cluster support this?

A: Queretaro really encourages relationships between universities and the private sector. As part of my role as president of the Queretaro Cluster, I participate in a joint program sponsored by the governor, which brings together the government, industry, and education communities. The governor has recognized that in order to build a good automotive foundation, the government must provide the right support, the education sector has to bring the right people in, and the industry has to be able to count on these two elements. The importance of working together cannot be understated. We want to eventually reach the German model where companies and universities work very closely in product development.

Q: Do you feel that the needs of the private sector and the strategies of the state government are aligned in Queretaro?

A: We enjoy close relationships with the federal Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Labor. To secure international investment, we have to work hard to compete and the local government understands that. It provides assistance with training and helps to build the supply base. There is a state program that partly subsidizes technological investments by companies, and the state government also supports universities with general industry research projects in order to grow the sector. Support is also provided for land acquisition and leasing, with the Queretaro industrial park partly being sponsored by the authorities. There is an understanding that the growth needs to be supported by infrastructure, so roads and flight paths are being developed accordingly. Today, getting from Queretaro to the US is straightforward. The airport underwent a complete renovation three years ago and can now handle more than 15 flights a day, which are always full of executive teams from international companies.

Q: What do you think the automotive cluster can learn from the aerospace cluster?

A: There are many synergies between companies in the aerospace and automotive sectors in terms of educational and labor needs. I am part of FEMIA, the national aerospace body, which deals with national issues. Regional needs are taken care of through local clusters. Manufacturing and assembly processes are also common factors in both industries, and require similar training. This creates a natural pull for collaboration.

Q: Was Queretaro disappointed not to host the new Honda facility?

A: The establishment of the Honda facility in Celaya has created many opportunities for suppliers in Queretaro, and that in itself is incredibly positive. Companies that are already here are expanding their capacity in response. For example, Tremec has received two contracts for transmissions and transmission components in the heavy vehicle sector for international companies that need North American content. Those two contracts will represent 10% of our sales over the next three years. That is new business, and the same is happening all throughout Queretaro. This state is quite diversified in providing electrical assembly, machining, steel and aluminum manufacturing, stamping houses, and dye shops. This mix means that the companies here do everything form light assembly, component assembly, injection molding, to interiors, and we are extremely well positioned to supply regional production. We also have Case New Holland, as well as Volkswagen Bus and MAN Truck & Bus based in Queretaro. Although they only assemble vehicles here and do not manufacture them, they play the role of OEMs and have good communication with the suppliers. All of these factors make our local automotive sector very dynamic.