Chihuahua continues as hot spot for aerospace sector

Chihuahua State Secretary of Economy Alberto Chretin reported that during 2011, 11 new aerospace industry operations began in his State, representing investments totaling US$240 million. The industry, currently focused on components, dates back to 1990 when General Dynamics opened for production of F-16 harnesses in Chihuahua City.

“One of every four jobs in Mexico in the aerospace sector is in Chihuahua. That means we are doing the right things, and that we must continue to actively work toward the enhancement of the Chihuahua operations,” he said.

Concerning reasons for competitiveness, Chretin pointed to the state’s “privileged geographic location being close to the most important market.” He cited the fact that four of the seven aerospace original equipment manufacturers have operations in the state, including Honeywell, Cessna, Textron International and Hawker Beechcraft.

Rod Holter, vice president and general manager, Aircraft Manufacturing, Hawker Beechcraft, agreed strongly with el estado grande’s geography – and time zone – as being important for competitiveness.

“From Wichita and going to Chihuahua takes about an hour and 45 minutes in a Hawker 1000, and I do that every week. To go to China or to go to Europe or anywhere else you might choose to go is a week. Your travel time and so forth just takes longer. We are one hour difference in time zone with Chihuahua to Wichita, so we are basically operating at the same hours during the day. So if an issue is a live issue you can talk to people real time rather than leaving an e-mail and wait for them to respond the next day.”

EDUCATION SUPPORTING INDUSTRY

Chretin pointed to education as another critical component for competiveness in support of aerospace. “CENALTEC (High Technology Training Center) students are directly trained in specific programs, such as aircraft structure assembly, computer-aided design, conventional machining, maintenance, geometric dimensioning and tolerances, as well as metal stampings, among others.” He went on to note that the state has worked to increase seats available in technical and university institutions, with a special focus on engineering.

In addition to education providing future engineers and employees ready for aerospace, the state’s economic leader also pointed toward Chihuahua’s current automotive and electronic sectors as contributing toward the “the highly skilled labor force and great work attitude as a valuable capital asset for the aerospace sector.” Chretin, while expressing confidence about the industry’s growth in 2011, added, “We must continue to actively work toward the enhancement of the competitiveness of Chihuahua when it comes to the aerospace industry.”