Article courtesy of the Las Cruces Bulletin
By Gabriel Vasquez
The Santa Teresa Port of Entry could be a model for effectual cross-border transportation and economic development, if only the right pieces fall into place, said Francisco Uranga, Foxconn vice president and chief business operations officer for Latin America.
Uranga, speaking during an economic forum held by the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance Friday, Oct. 8, urged local business leaders to rally local, regional and state legislators to focus their economic development efforts on improving infrastructure in Santa Teresa that has “tremendous potential” for bi-national development. “There are tremendous opportunities here to create a transportation metroplex that serves the purposes of the industrial companies on both sides of the border,” Uranga said. “People must realize the potential for the entire region, because as it is now, we’re being extremely inefficient with our transportation in this area.”
Uranga was instrumental in bringing the 500-acre Foxconn manufacturing facility to San Jeronimo, Mexico, which employs about 6,000 people and manufactures roughly 13,000 computers, laptops and servers each day. Foxconn is a Taiwanese industrial giant, building the majority of electronic components for popular companies such as Apple, Nokia, Motorola, HP and others. Foxconn has 1.1 million employees worldwide and is growing at an astounding rate, increasing profits by 67 percent in 2009.
When the San Jeronimo Foxconn facility was built in 2009, it was anticipated that the facility would bring many supply and logistics companies to the U.S. side of the border, which would significantly increase traffic through the Santa Teresa crossing and prompt economic development on both sides of the border.
That progress has been slow in coming, however, Uranga said, for various reasons. The approval and subsequent extension of the Juarez free trade zone will not go into effect until next year, Uranga said. The promised rail station, train-to-truck facility and refueling station proposed years ago by Union Pacific Railroad has also yet to materialize, and renovations are needed to the Santa Teresa Airport to accommodate large passenger and cargo jets, such as DC-10 aircraft, to satisfy the needs of logistics companies.
Uranga said the Santa Teresa-San Jeronimo border corridor is ideal for new maquilas and other enterprises because of its close proximity to the Santa Teresa Port of Entry, which would allow American investors, business and operations managers to cross into Mexico without fear of encountering the violence that has so badly plagued Ciudad Juarez.
“Picture an operation along the fence of the U.S. line, with secure corridors going through both U.S. and Mexican customs, where goods are coming through with dedicated lanes for transportation,” he said “This is why the importance of the (Foxconn) project is being talked about. We’re thinking about a new railway, a new (Santa Teresa Airport) runway and the expansion of the (Santa Teresa) crossing.”
In August, Gov.Bill Richardson announced that the New Mexico Border Authority signed a $1.23 million grant agreement with the Economic Development Administration, which will be utilized to evaluate the expansion of commercial rail services along the U.S.-Mexico border. The agreement has the full support of Richardson and U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman.
“Expanding commercial rail service along the border is fundamental to increasing trade between the United States and Mexico and will be a huge boost to the economy of southern New Mexico,” Richardson said. “I am pleased that this grant will allow us to continue our work on this important project.”
Zoe Richmond, director of public affairs for Union Pacific, said the railway extension project proposed by UP isn’t yet off the table, but she didn’t give a timetable for future investment in the area. “We stalled the project,” she said. “We did that obviously because of the economy. We are not able at this time to advance as we originally thought.”
The proposed $150 million Santa Teresa UP transfer station would clear congestion on the El Paso and Juarez railway, Uranga said. The transfer station would create more than 280 jobs and be able to process up to 100,000 containers per year.
Plans for improvements to the Santa Teresa Airport, however, are materializing. In September, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Santa Teresa will receive $2.2 million in funding for runway extensions.
“We’re taking baby steps to neutralize any major disadvantages we may have,” said Jerry Pacheco, director of the International Business Accelerator, a New Mexico nonprofit that specializes in cross-border economic development. Uranga said without state and federal financial support, infrastructure improvements and cross-border communication and cooperation, development on the Santa Teresa corridor will continue to lag.
“If you build it, they will come,” Uranga said. “If these things are in place, by having these projects complete and expanding the (Santa Teresa) airport, when you can have a container yard on the Mexican side, you can reroute the train lines from the center of Juarez to Santa Teresa.”
Ultimately, if the border transportation and logistics corridor that Uranga envisions becomes reality, he sees the “inefficient” trucking dominated transportation system currently in place across the border as a thing of the past. No longer will hundreds of trailers from the west and inner-city of Juarez logjam El Paso’s three border crossings every day, but instead a sophisticated truck-to-train system, with the help of logistics and transportation companies on each side of the border, will replace the current system, with many companies using the Santa Teresa Port of Entry.
“This is great potential that we’re sitting on,” Uranga said. “We bought into the idea, my chairman trusted me in setting up the (Foxconn) facility here, and once the free trade zone is approved in the first quarter of next year, we’ll start moving.
“But we need private sector people to continue to work with us and set up next to us. We need the U.S. side, the Mexico side, the New Mexico side and the Juarez and El Paso side working together on this. If we continue competing and fighting among each other, it won’t work. We need to maximize our potential.”
At Foxconn, Uranga is responsible for government relations at all levels as well as regulations, incentives, tax and duties, legal customers, immigration and land and construction issues in Latin America. He serves on the Board of Directors of Superior Industries International Inc., one of the largest wheel-makers in the world. From 1998 to 2004, he served as secretary of industrial development for the State of Chihuahua.