Monterrey, City of Industry June 24, 2013

El Cerro de la Silla, Saddle MountainCity of Industry, City of Mountains, Sultan of the North. All three monikers are common and apt descriptions of Monterrey, Mexico. This bustling city of over 4 million is the third largest in the country after Mexico City and Guadalajara. Located roughly 150 miles from both Laredo and McAllen, Texas, it’s the capital of Nuevo León state and an industrial powerhouse. The city’s reputation as a progressive center of industry, business and education stretches back to the nineteenth century.

Today, Monterrey is home to Mexican companies like CEMEX (one of the world’s largest cement producers), Grupo Bimbo (world’s largest bread company), OXXO (convenience store chain with over 11,000 locations in Latin America), Grupo ALFA (a conglomerate dealing in petrochemicals, foods, electronics and aluminum components), Gamesa (cookies, crackers, pasta, a subsidiary of Pepsico) and Cuauhtémoc-Moctezuma Brewery (Carta Blanca and Tecate beers, owned by Heineken). International companies with a Monterrey presence include Sony, Toyota, Dell, General Electric, Whirlpool, Toshiba and Samsung.    

In recent years, Monterrey has suffered with the instability affecting the entire country as drug cartels war for turf and dominance. However, the vast majority of regiomontanos (residents of Monterrey) and all Mexicans continue to work and live peaceful lives. In a 2012 article1, Business Without Borders, an online platform for American companies conducting business abroad, reported 1,800 factories in Monterrey, many U.S.-run. In spite of the instability, American companies aren’t leaving because, “The incentives, including low labor costs, ready-to-use infrastructure, a close-to-home supply chain and a sterling rating on the ease-of-doing-business scale, are just too great.”

In the affluent suburb of San Pedro, businessmen and women abound, sitting in front of laptops or talking into cell phones at Starbucks, in trendy restaurants, in elegant hotel lobbies. Luis Sillas, 59, personifies the famous entrepreneurial spirit for which regiomontanos are known. After earning a B.A. in Economics from the University of Monterrey, Sillas went to the University of Missouri for a Masters in Agricultural Economics. Afterwards, he joined his brother to run Quimicompuestos and grew it into one of the leading distributors of industrial chemical products and services in Mexico, with 17 locations nationwide. In May of this year, they sold the company to Univar, the largest chemical distributor in the United States.

When asked what he would say to Americans about the image of Mexico, Sillas replied, “Under Calderón (president, 2006-2012), the media gave a lot attention to the cartels, violence and corruption. Mexico became a substitute for Colombia. A lot of people are fed up and blame the media for helping create an extreme sense of stress and societal psychosis regarding the violence and instability. Sure they exist, but day after day, it seems like that’s all the media focuses on. It’s what sells.

“I cancelled my newspaper subscription last year because of this focus on corruption. Now I just scroll the headlines on the Internet and click on what interests me. The Mexican media need to create a society with more positive and optimistic thinking. We want to hear good things.”

Sillas goes on to give examples of a school for the severely mentally disabled and a leadership program for teenagers. “Americans hear about the bad things in Mexico, but they should hear about this reality—the good things—that happen in Mexico.”  In the coming months, follow “The Other Side of the Peso” to read about these stories and more and to learn about Mexicans’ hopes for the future of their country. 

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 1””Why foreign manufacters shrug off Mexico’s security issues,” August 1, 2012, http://www.businesswithoutborders.com/industries/aerospace/why-foreign-manufacturers-shrug-off-mexicos-security-issues/

 

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