CHIHUAHUA, Mexico (Border Report) — The aerospace industry is flying high in Chihuahua despite COVID-19.
Forty-five American and European airplane and helicopter parts manufacturers now have a presence in the state, and Paris-based Safran just announced a $10 million expansion in the capital.
These factories churn out anything from turbines to landing-gear components, from airplane seats to life rafts and sliders. The industry now employs more than 60,000 workers in Mexico and most of that country’s $8 billion in aerospace exports wind-up in the United States.
Industry officials attribute the growth to various factors. Being close to the U.S. border cuts down on transportation costs. Automotive maquiladora suppliers have been able to adapt and serve the aerospace sector. And, above all, states like Chihuahua are getting good at developing a skilled labor force.
“When I go recruiting companies in advanced manufacturing, they ask about land and infrastructure, of course. But the main concern is having a trained workforce,” said Jerry Pacheco, president and CEO of the Border Industrial Association.
He said states like Chihuahua — which borders Texas and New Mexico — have a 50-year track record of working with U.S.-run maquiladoras and are getting very good at providing skilled employees for each industry.
“Aerospace has taken off in Chihuahua for two main reasons: the supply base and that skilled labor force,” Pacheco said. “We have lots of young people with technical skills. And we have copper-wiring companies that supply the auto industry and that overlaps into aerospace. In essence, the aerospace industry is piggy-backing on the auto industry.”
Mexican universities graduate thousands of engineers a year. But the