Coahuila reinforces its status as a leading business destination

We should take note of the recent uptick in business activity in the state of Coahuila. The state is seeing the arrival of major manufacturers. Learn about the state's existing strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats it faces.

Coahuila reinforces its status as a leading business destination
Increasingly, companies are choosing Coahuila as their location of choice in Mexico. Credit: SEC Coahuila

The economic recovery in Coahuila, Mexico's third-largest state, deserves special attention. Especially considering that large manufacturing companies are relocating to the state. A look back at the state's history can help us understand its current accomplishments and advantages, as well as the challenges it will face in the future.

Coahuila has accelerated changes in several areas in recent decades. The boom in manufacturing, the expansion of infrastructure and local entrepreneurship, the arrival of foreign investment, and positive results in human development indexes and budgetary transparency have altered the country's profile and projections. Twenty years ago, the entity had limited access to the country's center, which would eventually be its final market. It is currently part of its horizon and is betting on exports. Its difficulties stem from changes in oil prices and public spending.

It's been a long road. The first Spanish settlers arrived in the area half a century after the Conquest was completed. The Villa de Saltillo was founded in 1577, and Nueva Almaden, today's Monclova, was founded in 1583. Nonetheless, the territory remained abandoned for nearly a century before stable human settlements appeared in regions with ideal agricultural and cattle raising conditions, mining enclaves, and the northern border. The country began to take off after its independence.

Figures for Coahuila

According to Inegi's Historical Statistics of Mexico, the population in Coahuila increased from 62,228 to 296,938 between 1852 and 1900, surpassing one million in 1970 and reaching 2,300,000 in 2000. Nonetheless, emigrants were historically more common than immigrants. From 2000 to 2005, the variable was reversed: 50 thousand people arrived in the state, compared to 44 thousand who sought other latitudes. Currently, the third-largest state by extension concentrates its 2.8 million inhabitants in Saltillo (26%), Torreon (23%), and Monclova (9%).

According to the Secretariat of Economic Development, Productivity, and Tourism (sedec), the state GDP is equivalent to 3.4% of the national GDP, ranking eighth in Mexico, and the GDP per capita is ranking fifth, higher than the national average. Coahuila is the third-largest state in terms of industry, accounting for 58% of total output. Manufacturing is crucial, accounting for 40.04% of GDP, with machinery, equipment (including automotive) and electrical-electronic (21.9%), steel and steel (9.14%), nonmetallic minerals (2.4%), and food (1.7%).

Currently, the third largest state in Mexico, with a population of 3.1 million inhabitants, is concentrated in the capital city of Saltillo, Torreón, and Monclova.

Coahuila is ranked fifth in the United Nations Human Development Index, following the capital, Nuevo León, Sonora), and Baja California Sur. Coahuila ranks sixth in the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness' "State Budget Information Index," which tracks the quality or opacity of the annual exercise, after Jalisco, Puebla, Colima, Sonora, and Tlaxcala. Imco highlights the breakdown of civil society organizations and the distinction between its resources and federal transfers among its best practices. In the meantime, "Mexico, How Are We Doing?" ranked it third in State Economic Performance.

According to the Mexican Social Security Institute, more formal jobs were created. The unemployment rate has dropped, and the average schooling of the economically active population ranks fourth nationally. According to SEDEC, 63.7% of Coahuila residents have access to health services (first place), 94.5% have access to all basic services (sixth place), and women face a gender disparity: 51% of the population has a formal job (fourth place), holds 50% of popularly elected positions in the Chamber of Deputies, and 33% of high-level officials and managers.

Mining in Coahuila.
Mining in Coahuila.

Local business advancement

Coahuila is home to several nationally recognized industrial groups. Among those on the list are Grupo Industrial Saltillo (gissa, auto parts, construction, and household items), Grupo Lala (Torreón, which supplies 40% of the country's milk), Grupo Acerero del Norte (gan), Grupo Industrial Monclova (gimsa), Grupo México, Grupo Modelo Met-Mex Peñoles (the largest producer of refined silver and gold in Latin America and Mexico, respectively), and Altos Horn

Chrysler and General Motors have automotive clusters in Saltillo and Ramos Arizpe, respectively. Nava is home to the thermoelectric plants Carbón I and Carbón II, which generate 10% of the country's electricity, and the mining companies Mimosa (Pala), Barosa, and Fluorita de México (Mzquiz) supply almost all of the coal required nationally. The state has 95% of coal reserves and 30% of gas reserves, so the potential is enormous.

At the same time, communication channels are expanding. Currently, five federal highways connect Mexico's east and west with border cities in the United States and the capital, as well as five international airports: Ramos Arizpe, Torreón, Monclova, Piedras Negras, Cuatro Ciénagas, and Ciudad Acuña. Because of these conditions, 32 associations, organizations, and business chambers exist.

Coahuila at the national center

Despite being far from the center of Mexico, Coahuila was the site of pivotal events in the nineteenth century. In 1811, the local royalist soldiers joined forces with the independence fighters led by Mariano Jiménez. Meanwhile, the defeat of the insurgents at the Battle of Puente Calderón near Guadalajara drives them to Saltillo to meet with Jiménez and seek refuge in Texas. Still, several of the most important leaders are captured between Saltillo and Monclova: Hidalgo, Allende, Aldama, Jiménez, and Abasolo.

During Texas's secession, the state was a key player. Iturbide and his successors have pushed for population growth since the Viceroyalty. The first families were established in this environment by Esteban Austin, the son of Moisés, who initiated the project.

By 1830, the population had grown to 20,000, five times that of 1810. Texas is incorporated into Coahuila under the protection of the 1824 Constitution, but Santa Anna changed the status of the entities ten years later, turning them into departments under his tutelage.

Dissatisfied, the Texans seceded from Mexico in 1836 and were annexed by the United States in 1845, precipitating the war between the two countries. Two years later, the battle of Buena Vista, considered a tactical draw between both armies, is still debated because Santa Anna's troops' retreat would have been the prelude to defeat.

Also in the nineteenth century, two Coahuilenses would have an impact on Mexican history: the priest and liberal Miguel Ramos Arizpe considered the father of Mexican federalism, and the military man Ignacio Zaragoza, victor in the battle of Puebla during the Second French Intervention in Benito Juárez's government. In the twentieth century, Coahuila produced two Mexican presidents: the apostle of democracy, Francisco I. Madero, and Venustiano Carranza, who was also governor of the state.

A production line in one of the Coahuila's industrial parks.
A production line in one of Coahuila's industrial parks.

The commitment to industrial buildings

The number of parks and industrial zones has increased, with 98% of them offering full logistics and equipment services. They currently house hundreds of high-tech companies, with 8 out of every 10 new businesses settling in one of them. Many are located in the three most important industrial corridors, Saltillo Ramos Arizpe, Torreón-Matamoros, and Monclova-Frontera. According to the Government Report, the authority contributes millions to infrastructure (water wells, electricity, job training, road construction, and real estate rental).

Manufacturing, which accounts for more than 2.1% of GDP, is the driving force behind industrial buildings, which is a common trend in North America. Manufacturing now accounts for 9% of Mexican GDP, up from 4% for warehouses. Monterrey, with the largest surface area in Mexico, and Saltillo, with one of the most dynamic national behaviors, stand out.

In Mexico, the demand for space in the manufacturing, maquiladora, and export services industry (IMMEX), although declining, increased in the areas of income and personnel, and revenues. In this context, Coahuila ranks fourth in the number of IMMEX establishments.

Five federal highways in the state link to eastern and western Mexico, U.S. border cities, and the capital, plus five international airports.

The following companies are from Coahuila: Gissa, Grupo Amistad, Alianza Derramadero, Industrial Saltillo, Santa María Industrial Park, Saltillo Coahuila Campus, Industrial Fundadores, Davisa Industrial Park, Industrial Park, Server Industrial Parks, Santa Mónica Industrial Park, Saltillo, and Ramos Arizpe Industrial Park, Server Industrial Park, Arteaga Davisa Industrial Park, Finsa Ramos Arizpe and Fis, among others.

Data from Somos Industria indicate that the arrival of new companies, expansions, and relocations in the parks of the entity point upwards. The predominant sectors: are automotive, household appliances, manufacturing, air conditioning, logistics and distribution, metalworking, and aerospace.

Companies from the United States, Canada and Germany, Sweden, China and Japan, and Portugal, Finland, India, Italy, South Korea, and Mexico have established, expanded, or relocated. The ships offer real estate, development, lodging, services, and professionals; the benefits of highway and rail networks and airports; connections to nearby ports on both coasts of the country and key cities in the southern United States; and security services.

The border: advantages and challenges

Fifty-two percent of the investment comes from the United States. The two international bridges of Acuña and Piedras Negras have an annual vehicular capacity of 2.5 million vehicles. One of the challenges is for the Piedras Negras bridge to have the Type 1 Customs modality, to improve schedules and services to facilitate exports and imports.

Figures show progress. Coahuila, according to Inegi, is in second place in export participation, with 9.9%, standing out, according to ProMéxico, in the manufacturing of transportation equipment, which reaches 65%, and the steel, mining, electronics, and food industries. Sedec already has a representative office in Taiwan. The fall in oil prices and the adjustment in public spending led to a change in promotion agendas, seeking to retain current investment and provide other opportunities for new companies.

Coahuila is the third-largest state in terms of industry.
Coahuila is the third-largest state in terms of industry.

In search of a cultural identity

Due in large part to the efforts of the National Council for Culture and the Arts (Conaculta) and the state governments, Coahuila has a cultural infrastructure. It includes, according to the Atlas of Cultural Infrastructure of Mexico and information in the site of the Secretariat of Culture, libraries (120), museums (30+-), cultural centers (30+-), reading rooms (100+-), bookstores (25+-), movie theaters (125+-), theaters (20+-), archaeological sites (314+-), historical monuments (952+-), artistic monuments (179+), parallel books, festivals, and four magical towns, poles of development of the cultural tourism: Parras de la Fuente, Cuatrociénagas de Carranza, Arteaga, and Viesca. Conaculta and Coahuila recently signed an agreement on cultural matters, headed by the National Dance Encounter.

The Stimulus Program for Artistic Creation and Development supports literature, visual arts, audiovisual media, theater, dance, music, and architecture. The Program to Support Municipal and Community Cultures encourages projects that strengthen community identity and cultural processes. Similarly, the state government launched the "Pueblos con Historia" (Towns with History) program for municipalities with a maximum population of 15,000 inhabitants, which have collections on their origins, traditions, myths and legends, monuments, and architecture.

The state protects seven reserves: Sierra del Carmen, Sierra de Zapaliname Ecological Conservation Zone, Los Novillos National Park, Nazas River, Cuatrociénagas Flora, and Fauna Protection Area, Jimulco Area, and Mapimí Biosphere Reserve. And the wine industry, which is also cultural, is emblematized by Casa Madero, whose origin dates back to 1597, established in Parras de la Fuente by decree of King Felipe II, recognized for the quality of its wines in international competitions.

Manuel Acuña and Julio Torri (literature), Emilio "el Indio" Fernández, Fernando and Andrés Soler and Ricardo Montalbán (cinema), and Julio Galán (plastic arts), among others, are from Coahuila, which would justify a museum dedicated to figures who have contributed to Mexico's culture. Susana Zavaleta (music), Armando Fuentes Aguirre, "Catón" (journalism and history), and José Narro Robles, rector of UNAM, are also from Coahuila.

Sources: Comercio Exterior Bancomext, No.2, Gerardo Ochoa Sandy