FEMIA Leader sees Mexican Aerospace gaining altitude

Vladimiro de la Mora, newly-appointed president of the Mexican Federation of Aerospace Industries (FEMIA), heads the non-profi t association which includes the majority of the aerospace companies in Mexico. He takes the controls at a time when the burgeoning aerospace industry in his country needs to stay on course for opportunities that continue to appear on the horizon.

He looks to the industrial-educational-governmental partnership as critical for the day when an aircraft takes its maiden fl ight from a Mexican runway.

WHAT IS FEMIA’S ROLE IN MEXICO?

The role for FEMIA is to try to put all the companies together.
We try to have one voice with the government, with the universities as to how we can collaborate and how we can redevelop this industry in Mexico together. That is one of the main missions for FEMIA.

AS YOU TAKE UPON THIS MISSION WHAT IS YOUR VISION, WHAT DIFFERENCE CAN FEMIA MAKE GOING FORWARD FOR THE AEROSPACE INDUSTRY IN MEXICO? We create a program that is proprietary for now to 2020. I think what the goal for FEMIA should be to align with that program.
The objectives are very clear: create 110,000 jobs in that industry; to have 50 percent national content in the industry; to be one of the top 10 providers for the industry in the world, and to be close to US$12 billion in annual exports in this industry.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE TOTAL INVESTMENT, NATIONAL OR FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT, IN THE AEROSPACE INDUSTRY IN MEXICO?

We are in a range of between $14 billion to $15.5 billion. In the direct exports we are close to $4 billion and we would like to be at about $7.5 billion in 2015. Today we have close to 32,000 employees in 266 companies in 18 different states in the country.
The states with more than 30 companies include Baja California, Chihuahua, Sonora, Nuevo Leon and Querétaro.

AS YOU TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR ROLE IN MEXICO, HOW DO YOU WORK WITH THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT? HOW DOES THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FEMIA EFFORTS?

We have a very close relationship with them and the aerospace industry is one of the key industries that the government has been put into focus to develop. They see it as one of the strategic areas of growth for the country. We always say that aerospace industry in Mexico is a new future from Mexico to the world.

AS YOU TAKE A LOOK AT THE GROWTH OF THIS IMPORTANT INDUSTRY AND MEXICO YOU SPEAK OF OPTIMIZING RESOURCES AND OPTIMIZING THE REGIONS. PLEASE EXPLAIN THAT.

We are working, for example, with the government to have some labs. These labs could be used by different companies. We know that the labs are a huge investment. We can leverage by region. Here in Querétaro there is another local association of the aerospace industry that is working with the local authorities and federal authorities as well to try to work with technology institutions for that kind of support to the industry.

EARLIER YOU MENTIONED MEXICAN CONTENT IN THE GROWING AEROSPACE INDUSTRY. YOU HAVE A GOAL THAT SAYS 50 PERCENT BY 2020. THAT IS A VERY CHALLENGING GOAL. WHAT IS YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL THAT MEXICO CAN ACHIEVE THAT AND WHAT ARE THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT PRESENTS FOR MEXICAN SUPPLIERS?

I’m very confi dent that this is going to happen. Obviously there is a lot of work to do and we need to work together: the academic, the industry, the government to make it happen. It is a big opportunity.
If you see the chart, 80 percent of the companies today in Mexican aerospace are big or medium companies. These require a lot of sourcing locally. There is a big opportunity for sourcing companies as more companies or medium-sized companies come in to support those big companies.

ONE OF THE MORE INTERESTING NOTES IN MEXICO IS THERE IS A UNIVERSITY HERE IN QUERETARO THAT IS DEDICATED TO THE AEROSPACE INDUSTRY. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN AND WHAT RESULTS ARE YOU SEEING?

Essentially, that university started three years ago when the industry started growing here in this state. The local authorities provided that university to develop the talent for the industry that is arriving. Let me tell you, Mexico is one the countries in the whole of Latin America that produces more engineers per capita. Another component that we need to have is to train those engineers in this industry. We don’t have expertise in the industry and it’s going to take some years. That kind of university is developing that talent. I think so far they are developing the fi rst technicians. They have a degree program in aerospace, and now they are offering a master’s degree program. They are moving up.

AS THEY MOVE UP, WHAT OPPORTUNITY DOES THAT MEAN IN MEXICO?

I think it’s huge! It’s huge not just to be in the manufacturing part, but also to be in the engineering side. We have a good example with the engineering center General Electric that has more than 1,500 engineers — Mexican engineers — developing technology for the world.

IN YOUR ROLE AS THE LEADER FOR FEMIA, YOU HAVE TO TAKE A LOOK AT THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY.
LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE COMPONENTS THEREIN. IN TERMS OF THE HUMAN RESOURCE, TO WHAT EXTENT ARE YOU HAPPY THAT MEXICO IS ON TRACK TO OFFER THE BEST?

We are starting, but it is going to take time as I mentioned.
In this industry the expert takes 20 to 30 years to develop. We are on the right track, by 2020 I see Mexico to be a very good player in the industry. We as companies need to understand that we need to invest in the people. The talent is there. We need to work closely with academia to be partnered with them because alone we cannot do all the work. I think that the universities, the schools, the local governments understand that, and they are working together. Private universities have their own programs for aerospace industry; public universities as well. I think we are on the right track.

HOW INVESTOR FRIENDLY WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE MEXICO WHEN IT COMES TO THE AEROSPACE INDUSTRY?

Just look at the example here in Queretaro; just look at all the companies that arrived here in the last two or three years.
Just take a ride around the city and see all the growth in the city.
This industry is driving part of that growth. Together with the automotive industry, I think there are opportunities in Mexico.
Mexico is very open for investment.

ONE THING ABOUT MEXICO IS THE IMPORTANCE OF LOGISTICS. QUERETARO IS BASICALLY IN THE CENTER OF MEXICO. HOW DO YOU SEE THE DEVELOPMENT OF LOGISTICS? WHERE DOES THE SUPPLY CHAIN NEED TO GO TO HELP REDUCE THE TOTAL COST OF DOING BUSINESS?

If you see for example Querétaro: Querétaro to Laredo is 10 hours in a truck. Queretaro to Houston is two hours flying. We need to continue making bigger that infrastructure so our suppliers can come faster to our country.
We have big ports on the Gulf of Mexico. I think location in Mexico is primed to serve the big market that is the United States.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES THAT THE MEXICAN AEROSPACE INDUSTRY MUST KEEP AN EYE ON TO MAKE SURE YOU ACHIEVE THOSE GOALS?

Developing the talent and helping small companies get their certifications. Aerospace industry is a very different industry. If we convert companies and people from some other industry, from automotive for example, to the aerospace industry, they need to understand all the certification and other requirements in aerospace. We are flying people. They need to be very safe. This is a very controlled industry and security should be the number one priority.

YOU SAID FLYING WITH PEOPLE, WHEN WILL A COMPLETE AIRCRAFT MAKE ITS VERY FIRST FLIGHT FROM A MEXICAN RUNWAY?

I hope to see it around 2020.