Chihuahua City is big dog in Mexico aerospace

The Washington Times, 5/14/12

When a jumbo jetliner touches down almost anywhere in the world, the last thing on the pilot’s mind is that the plane’s brakes likely were made in the capital of one of the most crime-riddled states in Mexico. Behind the headlines of warring drug gangs and a soaring murder rate in Mexico, a fast-growing high-tech economy centered on the aerospace industry has sprung up in recent years.

In Chihuahua City alone, 36 aerospace plants have opened since 2007 as a growing number of international parts makers use the city as a base for tapping a massive airplane-production market in the United States. “Our first objective was to get into the U.S. market and get a deal with U.S. customers,” said Nicolas Maillard, director of the French-owned Manoir Aerospace plant in Chihuahua City, 235 miles south of El Paso, Texas.

Shiny, precision-shaped steel discs produced by the plant are shipped to companies in Ohio and Kentucky, where they are added into the assembly line for brake systems on the Boeing Co.’s commercial airplanes. With the average cost of manufacturing labor running about $6 per hour in the city, a new era of high-tech growth is taking root. “The real advantage is the cost of labor,” Mr. Maillard said. “In France, labor would account for about 30 percent of the cost of production on an item like this. Here, it’s roughly 10 percent, and we’re closer to the market we’re trying to reach.”

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