Mexico’s Resilient Industrial Machine

Forward Online, 3/5/12

Seven years ago, EE Technologies (EET) opened a new plant in Empalme, Mexico, on the balmy eastern shore of the Gulf of California. For the Reno-based manufacturer of electronic circuit boards, setting up shop 300 miles south of Tucson, Arizona, seemed like the best way to stop the hemorrhaging of its customers to competitors with low-cost overseas operations.

“It’s like recapturing your own business,” says Rogan Owens, the company’s engineering manager who ran the Mexico operation between 2009 and 2011. Not only was the company ditching what had been a costly domestic manufacturing operation, but company officials also liked the idea of keeping a reliable supply chain while staying close to their American customers, avoiding the hassles that some competing electronic manufacturers with plants in China were experiencing.

Why is all of this important to the rest of the continent? Jobs, says Christopher Wilson, an economist at the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Six million American workers, one in every 24, depend on trade with Mexico to stay employed.

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