Sunday, March 29, 2009
A New Road Along the U.S.-Mexico Border May Help Boost Commercial Development
By Rene Romo
Journal Southern Bureau
CIUDAD JUÁREZ — A simple, unpaved road running along New Mexico's southern border is generating excitement among state officials eager to see more commercial development in the Santa Teresa area of Doña Ana County.
For the first time, the Mexican-built, seven-mile-long stretch of road provides a direct link between Ciudad Juárez's west side and the Santa Teresa port of entry on the New Mexico side of the border.
"It's tremendous," said Jerry Pacheco, executive director of the Santa Teresa-based International Business Accelerator, a contractor for New Mexico's Economic Development Department. "It connects us (New Mexico) directly to the heart of Juárez. ... For the first time, that road makes Santa Teresa tied in directly to Juárez's main industrial base."
The Santa Teresa port of entry, in addition to being a traffic link between the U.S. and Mexico, is the doorway to a southern New Mexico area that already has two industrial parks, as well as large areas of land long-targeted for more commercial and residential development.
The direct route, graded in early February, reduces travel time from Ciudad Juárez to the New Mexico border crossing from about an hour to 10 minutes. And despite continuing drug cartel violence in northern Mexico and Ciudad Juárez, where the federal government has deployed thousands of troops to quell the trouble, commerce goes on.
Mexican authorities have announced plans to pave the road by the fall, starting out with two lanes but with room to expand to six.
A paved road would make Santa Teresa a more attractive location for suppliers of maquiladoras — large assembly plants on the Mexican side of the border — and the port of entry more attractive to truckers looking for a faster route into the U.S., Pacheco said.
So far, the main beneficiary of the road from Colonia Anapra is the giant manufacturing plant recently built at San Jeronimo, on the Mexican side, by Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn — the trade name for Hon Hai Precision Industry.
San Jeronimo, on the Mexican side of the border, is the sister port of entry to New Mexico's Santa Teresa.
Foxconn employees are bussed from western Juárez over an area known as Lomas del Poleo to the Foxconn plant in San Jeronimo, which sits in a swath of desert owned by Mexican businessman Eloy Vallina.
The Mexican federal electrical commission is extending high-voltage power lines along the road to the San Jeronimo area to accommodate the development.
Foxconn's San Jeronimo plant has 100 suppliers, and some of them could be lured to set up shop in southern New Mexico, Pacheco said.
Foxconn officials could not be reached for comment.
When Foxconn broke ground on its maquiladora in San Jeronimo last July, company officials said that, when completed in three or four years, it would be the largest in Mexico. The plant will encompass more than three million square feet and could employ as many as 20,000 workers.
Foxconn officials said the first phase will be a 1.3 million-square-foot facility where workers will make computers, laptops and other electronic equipment.
The plant is a major employment boon in northern Mexico.
Foxconn last month completed three large buildings, housing two assembly plants and a distribution warehouse, which employ about 500 workers. The campus also includes a cafeteria, large auditorium and dormitories.
Job recruiters have visited Colonia Anapra, the working-class community closest to San Jeronimo, in recent weeks as Foxconn has ramped up hiring.
Maricela Longoria Carrillo, 18, stood in line recently to be interviewed by Foxconn recruiters under a small tent across from an elementary school in Anapra. With her husband recently laid off, Longoria Carrillo hoped to become the family breadwinner.
"My husband's uncles work there," she said. "They pay well, and the work is not very hectic. They are treated well."
Another Anapra resident, 32-year-old Juan Rojas Fernandez, left his interview in good spirits. He said he had been hired at a weekly salary of about $50, and he noted that his wife is already a Foxconn employee.
"I'm just glad to work because there are so few companies hiring," said Rojas, who said he would be assembling computer components. "It's convenient. Out of all the maquilas, it's the closest one."
Jim Creek, a New Mexico Border Authority project manager, said the new border road will provide maquila plants built in San Jeronimo in the future ready access to workers.
"And it provides direct access for northern Juárez to cross the border at Santa Teresa," Creek said.