But Juárez has survived and is preparing for a new influx of investors.
The statistics on villainy, however, are grim: hundreds of murders of women, several thousand men and women executed in drug-related gang warfare, numerous cases of kidnapping and extortion.
Like feral rats, the criminals by and large operate with impunity. Whether because of police incompetence, corruption or fear, most crimes are unsolved.
In early August the federal government, having already sent in the army, threatened to withdraw all law enforcement funding for Juárez unless the municipality adequately trained its police force. It subsequently relented.
In the 46 years since the
However, Enrique Miramontes, plastic products manager for Mexico and Central America of manufacturers' representative Labelle Industrial Sales Inc, of El Paso, said that, when large corporations with in-house injection, extrusion and blow molding operations, such as Electrolux, Honeywell, Flextronics. Nypro and Automotive Lighting are included, the number is closer to 75.
Miramontes, a former president for
The economic development office reported that the value of products made from rubber and plastics in Juárez and adjacent towns in the state of
In the first five months of this year, rubber and plastics processors' sales reached $45.3 million, only slightly down ($500,000) from the same period in 2010, it said.
In 2008 the Juárez maquiladoras employed 250,000 workers. The global downturn led to 80,000 being laid off in 2009. Hiring began again in 2010.
Up to 30,000 have been re-employed, said Alan Russell, president and CEO of the Tecma Group of Companies, of
Tecma helps foreign companies establish themselves in
The U.S. Department of Commerce's Commercial Service (CS) has also been busy. Its El Paso U.S. Export Assistance Center opened in February 2009, after which it launched the Border Trade Initiative (BTI), a series of promotions to encourage trade with
According to Robert Queen, the CS director in
At one event, sponsored by the state of
Russell believes that “for the first time in modern history
“When the recession occurred, the banks pulled lines of credit from manufacturers. So, as the recession is ending, and slowly, I might say... companies are seeing where they can increase their manufacturing low cost initiatives.
“The minimum wage, and the overall cost of operating, in
“Many manufacturers that moved to Asia in the past 10 years now realize the total cost of manufacturing and transportation back to the US consumer is higher than manufacturing on the U.S./Mexican border and are increasingly looking at production plants here in El Paso/Juarez,” Queen said in a separate interview.
He declined comment when asked about the security problem in Juárez. But Russell, while lamenting the violence across the river, said: “Fortunately, the criminal element has allowed our industry to continue.
“We've not had any type of assault on plants or personnel. Our shipments have not been obstructed or blocked. We have not had our vehicles hijacked.”
He said crime is declining in Juárez, a claim also made by
“Our biggest obstacles to growth are not the corporate board of directors but news reports” about violence in Juárez, Russell said. “We do take precautions. We have training seminars for our clients… They have not kidnapped expats for the most part.”
Plastic Molding Technology Inc, formerly of
CEO Charles A. Sholtis said the move has paid off handsomely. With just under 100 employees and 58 presses, their clamping forces ranging from 20 to 500 tons, PMT doubled its sales to about $14 million two years ago,
Founded by Sholtis's father, Charles E. Sholtis with one Arburg press in the mid 1970s, PMT specializes in manufacturing injection molded plastic components with extremely high tolerance. The company serves the automotive and household electronics sectors, which account for 75 percent of the business, principally.
He sees a bright future for his company. “With Nafta established, a number of things have been put into place to promote trade between the two countries,” he said.
“From a freight standpoint, steps have been taken to streamline points of entry”, with multiple crossing points and a beltway around Juárez.
Stuart Roberts, owner of Sun Cross Marketing Inc, of
Business in the area is “on the up and up,” he said.
Alan Russell agreed: “It's not a boom. We're growing at a nice pace. We're back to where we were in