Chihuahua – The Leader of Industrial Mexico

Chihuahua is the industrial leader of Mexico. The State has a wide variety of industrial clusters under development and is home to over 550 manufacturing operations. Among them are sectors related to Electric-Electronics; Automotive- Auto-Parts; Life Sciences; Information Technologies; Renewable Energies; Agro-Industry-Food Products; Furniture; Apparel; Construction Materials-Mining; and even Aerospace.

Cesar Duarte is the Governor of the State. He has been an important promoter of State’s economic development. During the inauguration of Plant VI of Hawker Beechcraft in Chihuahua, he announced: “Our administration has decided to make the necessary investment for encouraging the creation of more and better jobs, contributing to the development of our State in many sectors, and a specially important one is the Aerospace industry.”


Cesar Duarte, State Governor, reiterated the notion at the inauguration of the Plant VI of Hawker Beechcraft: “Because of our geographic location, our policies for industrial promotion and our specialized labor force, Chihuahua will continue to be an attractive destination for the establishment of the Aerospace Industry.” Chihuahua has an unparalleled geographic location. It is the largest state in Mexico covering 12.6% of the national territory.

The strategic location means sharing 40% of the largest border with the United States, at the same time providing 10 border crossing and five ports of entry. Alberto Chretin is the Secretary of Economy for the State and he had this to share with MexicoNOW: “Chihuahua is a well-positioned state,” he said, “with a privileged location inside the NAFTA market. It features the ability to provide the most specialized labor force in Mexico. Our infrastructure competes for worldwide attention with available space for the establishment of new companies at some of the most developed and modern industrial parks found anywhere. All the services required,” explained Chretin, “are fully integrated. We are a very competitive and fertile destiny for new investment.”

These are some of the reasons why Chihuahua is the largest exporting manufacturing industry employer in Mexico. According to the Chihuahua State Secretariat of the Economy, the State represents 26% of Mexico’s total manufacturing. This well-developed State is the third most important attraction for foreign direct investment according to the 2010 statistics. This continuous development is really outstanding and has registered over US$1.1 billion per year for the last six years.

Among the facts and competitive advantages of the State of Chihuahua are:

  • National leader in jobs, exports and value added for the Export Manufacturing Industry.
  • Pioneer State in the Export Manufacturing Industry in Mexico (More than 40 years of experience).
  • Availability of highly qualified and stable labor force.
  • Union free state with more than 16 years without a strike.
  • Solid infrastructure and State of the Art industrial developers that offer support to companies in order to make a “soft landing”.

Chihuahua has passed from being a competitive and low-cost labor force into a qualified and highly specialized one. This has been accomplished not only because of the experience gained by industry over 40 years, but also because the State has been improving its infrastructure in order to offer better training and encourage dynamic bonding between the educational and productive sectors.

Alberto Chretin mentioned that the State Government is worried about providing excellence for the preparation and training of their productive sector labor force. “The State Government,” he pointed out, “…has the vision that the workforce is their greatest asset for industrial growth. In Chihuahua, Educational and Training Centers are linked to support the needs of industry. We identify it as the (COVAP – PRODUCTIVE-ACADEMIC LIAISON COUNCIL).”

The educational infrastructure includes:

  • 59 Universities and Technological Institutions.
  • 65 Vocational – Technical Institutions.
  • R&D Centers (CIMAV, which will be NADCAP certified next year).
  • The CENALTEC, (high technology training center), a state of the art training center that trains specialized operative personnel according to industrial needs.

The CENALTEC is a unique training center in Mexico. It is used to train and certify operative and technical personnel under international standards on two Campuses: Chihuahua and Juarez City. This educational model consists in short term programs adapted to comply with the industry’s specific needs. Eighty percent of this effort is hands-on learning programs with instructors with over 20 years of required industry-wide experience.

Alberto Salomon is the Director of the CENALTEC. He proudly says: “Iconic industrial companies in Chihuahua have seen the CENALTEC as an option to strengthen their most important resource, i.e. human capital. Clients like Textron, Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, The Nordam Group, CAV Aerospace, and Manoir, among others, have all trusted the experience of our Mexican faculties who have taught their techniques and abilities thanks to the economic support of “train the trainer programs” paid by the respective companies.

According to Alberto Salomon, by August 2011 the CENALTEC will have already trained 2,066 technicians, engineers and aerospace program operators.

Among the CENALTEC’s International Certifications are:

  1. Machining – Kenteq/ROC – Europe, NIMS/ASME – USA
  2. SMA – HBC & Cessna – USA
  3. Welding – Tighitco – Canadian Commission; Scolaire des Sommets Bombardier – Europe

Another important strength found in Chihuahua is the CIMAV. It is in the Advanced Materials Research program where a wide variety of scientific research disciplines are included such as:

  • Materials synthesis and processing techniques.
  • Materials characterization and analytical testing facilities.

CIMAV’s highly skilled research staff includes scientists with various backgrounds coming from different materials and environmental science disciplines. They are supported by highly specialized technicians and dedicated administrative personnel.

Their research departments include materials physics, materials chemistry and environment and energy. Their institutional programs are nano-technology and nanoscience along with hydrogen production and fuel cell specialization.

Chihuahua is a strategic location to host manufacturing operations for Mexico’s aerospace industry. Four out of seven OEM’s in Mexico are located in the State of Chihuahua. At present the aerospace industry in Chihuahua represents more than 30% of Mexico’s total employment and it has an exciting potential growth for the next three years. This is because of the new projects that are landing there.Exhibit 1 illustrates the OEM’s and Specialized Suppliers located in Chihuahua.


During the last six years 36 new manufacturing operations along with two Engineering and Design Centers have started operations in Chihuahua. This is shown in Exhibit 2. Chihuahua is the most advanced manufacturing hub in Mexico.


See: Exhibit 3 showing the presence of the Aerospace Industry in Chihuahua.


Alberto Chretin, explained that the State Government is working with the aerospace industry in three specific slopes that include the structural, avionics and machineding. Chretin said: “We have heard many success stories from the companies that have operations in Chihuahua. We know that most of them are considering or doing expansions of their operations in Chihuahua.”

As we said earlier, Chihuahua is home to some of the most important aerospace companies operating in Mexico. Hawker Beechcraft, for instance, has four manufacturing and assembly facilities with over 600,000 sq. ft. for the assembly and fabrication of sheet metal parts and components. HBC’s new expansion will employ up to 700 people in Chihuahua and will be one of the largest aerospace manufacturing operations in Mexico.

Textron International Mexico (TIM) established operations in Chihuahua to manufacture minor and major structural assemblies and cabins for helicopters. TIM expects to have more than 350 employees in the following years. Cessna is a Fortune 500 Company with three manufacturing and assembly plants in Chihuahua with over 1,100,000 sq. ft. They produce electrical wire harnesses, sheet metal and composite materials parts and components for regional jets. This plant employs more than 778 people in Chihuahua and is currently expanding operations.

Honeywell positions Chihuahua as one of the most developed hubs for machining. It is a Fortune 100 company with two manufacturing facilities and one for special processes. They operate the fabrication and assembly of parts and components for engines and special processes in three facilities that employ over 1,400 people.

According to Felipe Sandoval, who is the General Manager of Honeywell, his company has selected Chihuahua as a site for a machining center of excellence, for its skilled labor pool and its proximity to other Honeywell sites in Mexico and the Southwest of the United States. “Workers in Chihuahua are well educated and have a strong work ethic”.

Two other success stories in Chihuahua Aerospace come from Labinal. They are part of the Safran Group and Zodiac Aerospace. Labinal has two facilities and one Design and Engineering Center in Chihuahua for the assembly and design of electrical wiring systems. They work in a 500,000 sq. ft. campus employing 2,500 workers. Zodiac has five divisions operating in Chihuahua.

Aircruisiers, Weber, IDD, Icore, Amfuel produce emergency slides, gas tanks, landing gears, food tables, arm pads, headrests, and other items. Zodiac employs more than 900 people in two facilities. The State Government provides important support programs for already established companies in Chihuahua and offers attractive incentives for new prospects.

“We keep attention on maintaining the incentives that were previously offered by the past administrations. This guarantees support for their operations in Chihuahua along with new programs designed mostly for training of the established industry in Chihuahua,” according to Alberto Chretin.

Chihuahua has received a number of important industrial recognitions for the advanced technology, engineering, design and state-of-the-art development in its aerospace industry. The following summary gives an idea of what Chihuahua’s main advantages are:

    • The largest wire harnesses manufacturing center anywhere.
    • The largest machining center worldwide.
    • The premier one-expert-point of contact for outsourcing machining to Mexico.
    • The first Aerospace Processing Facility in Mexico internationally dedicated to the Processing needs of all Aerospace OEM’s and their suppliers (MFCo).
    • More process approvals for The Boeing Company than any other process shop worldwide (MFCo).
    • 1 of every 4 jobs in the manufacturing industry and 1 of 3 in the Aerospace industry in Mexico.
    • NADCAP, AS9100 Quality Certifications.
    • Chihuahua will host Mexico’s Aerospace Summit in October. This will be an opportunity to not only learn more about the country’s aerospace industry, but more specifically about the one in Chihuahua with all its competitive advantages. There will be many B2B meetings of the premier players in the Aerospace Industry.

      “Our partnership with the State Government as well as the Secretariat of Economy has been a key to this success” Felipe Sandoval concluded. “The government at entities have shown great interest in developing the infrastructure and conditions that favor the establishment of the aerospace industry in the region like a Technical Training Center that provides the local labor force the basic skills necessary to deliver the quality products our customers expect”.
    Alberto Chretin, concludes by inviting companies that are interested in Mexico to consider Chihuahua as an option. It is where they will find a fertile business and industrial environment.