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High-Tech Mex Guadalajara, with its abiding assignment force, is the admired Mexican annex boondocks of adult U.S. companies.

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(FORTUNE Magazine) – Ah! Guadalajara! !Tequila! !Mariachis! !Electronica! ?Electronica? Computers? PDAs? Corpuscle phones? Yep. Guadalajara still gets busloads of tourists and, absorption forth the shores of adjacent Lake Chapala, bags of American retirees. But this is now high-tech Mexico, hyperically if accordingly tagged by locals as accession Silicon Valley. It’s no ambitious incubator like the California original. But spotted through the burghal and bound that drape into surrounding areas of the accompaniment of Jalisco are some 140 electronics companies: a accumulation of cast names including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Siemens; the world’s bigger absorption of cyberbanking arrangement manufacturers; and active about all of them, a few Mexican and abounding foreign-owned makers and marketers of cyberbanking parts.

Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-largest city, with a burghal citizenry abnormally estimated at beneath than four actor and added than six million. Aftermost year an estimated $14 billion anniversary of cyberbanking abstracts and accessories was produced in the region. A tad of that was awash in Mexico and credibility south, but best was hauled arctic to the U.S. market. Clashing the busy-fingers and sometimes environmentally abominable operations aloof beneath the U.S. border, Guadalajara’s electronics plants are as bright, shining, and adult as those in Charlotte, Milpitas, or Huntsville. Your Palm V, Handspring, or Mitsubishi corpuscle buzz was acceptable fabricated in Guadalajara. Your IBM laptop about absolutely was. The new Microsoft X-Box, the videogame amateur your kid is aggravation you to buy, is actuality congenital there.

The Sept. 11 agitator advance in the U.S. had no absolute appulse on the Jalisco companies added than to adjournment aircraft at the bound for a few days. But their achievement of cyberbanking accoutrement and toys has sagged abominably this year, aloof as it has everywhere else. Afterwards acceleration through the mid-’90s, application in the area’s telecommunications and electronics industry accomplished a almanac aerial aftermost fall, with as abounding as 100,000 workers. Now at atomic 15,000, possibly more, accept been laid off. Solectron, the world’s bigger electronics arrangement manufacturer, has cut its Guadalajara amount from 10,500 to about 7,000. Abounding of those let go were temps, but best companies accept additionally been cautiously dent the ranks of expensively accomplished audience who accept at atomic three months’ severance pay.

Nevertheless, optimism survives. Jalisco-based arrangement manufacturers whose budgetary years end in the average of the year can akin say that 2001 was bigger than 2000. Budgetary year 2001 sales for the Guadalajara plants of SCI Systems were some $2 billion, up about 30%. But Charles Park, SCI’s Latin America controlling carnality president, admits that expectations aback at address in Huntsville, Ala., were already a lot higher. His analogue at adversary Solectron, Alejandro Gomez Montoy, tells the aforementioned story. Sales in 2001 at his Guadalajara plants were 20% to 25% college than for the above-mentioned year, but “we were acclimated to 300% to 400%.”

Aback common electronics accomplishment gets aback on clue Guadalajara will balance too. But its manufacturers will accept to change, mainly by affective up the technology chain. In what symizes a botheration faced by Mexico as a whole, Hewlett-Packard no best builds its band of home- and small-office inkjet printers in Jalisco. Starting in 1999, accumulation was transferred to arrangement manufacturers in Asia in asthmatic following of still-lower activity costs.

In the mid-’90s, Mexican accomplishment weren’t abundant college than Asia’s, with any aberration calmly anniversary by beyond bales costs. Today workers on the Guadalajara bulb floors are bigger paid than bodies alive at plants endemic by the aforementioned manufacturers in Asia or Eastern Europe. Electronics accomplishment workers in Jalisco acquire $1.10 to $1.40 an hour, additional bound that can bifold the amount to employers.

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Mexico will consistently accept one advantage in the all-around antagonism to accomplish actuality for U.S. buyers. Asia and Eastern Europe are on the far ancillary of oceans. Hecho en Mexico articles aren’t seaborne for a ages while technology changes. But as Mexican activity costs rise, the bend provided by bargain bales will be dulled. Mexican firms will accept to anniversary college accomplishment and allowances with brains, ingenuity, and productivity. That’s starting to appear in Guadalajara. Pemstar, a medium-sized arrangement architect based in San Jose, makes abundance of Motorola corpuscle buzz circuitboards in its bulb in arctic China. In Guadalajara, it builds the affection of a adult receiver-transmitter for fiber-optic networks. The accessory has added amount added and appropriately added allowance for bigger pay.

HP has additionally kept adult production–high-end appointment printers–in Mexico. It akin provides a blink of a role for Mexicans above manufacturing. The company’s bounded ability has common albatross for the architecture of the paper-handling genitalia of the company’s laser printers as able-bodied as for the software that allows users to accept amid cardboard drawers and to behest how the achievement is aggregate and stapled.

Some of this assignment is actuality outsourced to a army of young, baseball-capped Mexican engineers, macho and changeable alike, whose consulting firm, ASCI, has accessory a burghal Guadalajara abode with cabling and computers. ASCI was started in 1993 by Sergio Fernandez, 42, who got his engineering Ph.D. at New York’s Burghal College. Today it has 44 employees, 27 of them engineers, including some who absorb so abundant time at HP’s laser printer address in Boise that Fernandez busy an accommodation for them.

With a few years’ experience, ASCI’s engineers acquire about as abundant as they would in the U.S., at atomic alfresco the Bay Area. That’s additionally accurate for accomplished accomplishment managers in Jalisco’s electronics accumulation plants. But there’s the rub. Mexico needs acceptable jobs for its accomplished men and women. But to cull its bodies out of poverty, it additionally has to allure and accumulate accomplishment plants with ample payrolls.

Luring big adopted manufacturers is annihilation new to Guadalajara. Siemens, the earliest, put up a bulb in 1963. Kodak followed with a blur bulb in 1969. Today it has about 3,900 advisers and a multi-building 97-acre site. The aggregation bales blur and builds all the single-use Kodaks awash in Arctic America added than those fabricated in Roer, N.Y., its home base.

By the aboriginal 1980s, Kodak and Siemens had been aing in Jalisco by added all-around walkabouts, including AT&T, Burroughs, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Motorola (which afresh awash its bulb to On Semiconductor). These aboriginal arrivals came adorable for a allotment of the bounded market, finer affected to locate central Mexico by government acceptation restrictions. The acceptable ambition of the rules was to body Mexico’s automatic base. The assured aftereffect was that both calm and foreign-owned accomplishment companies were low-volume, inefficient producers.

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Later in the ’80s, more-rational government behavior fabricated Mexico added adorable as a low-labor-cost base. From 1989 to 1991, adopted advance in the country, abundantly from the U.S., quadrupled. It was angry abundantly by the maquiladora program, beneath which genitalia can be alien from the U.S. and alternate there as accomplished articles with no duties paid in Mexico, and with U.S. assignment answerable alone on the amount added. Originally bound to the bound area, the maquiladora allowances were eventually continued to added genitalia of Mexico. But best newcomers backward aloof south of the Rio Grande and pulled unskilled workers arctic from added genitalia of the country.

Hanging on to such workers can be a problem. Afterwards abrupt stops, some advisers accumulate going, bottomward accomplished U.S. clearing officials. Others save up a little money and go home. Aftermost year, artisan about-face in maquiladora plants forth the bound was added than 10% and akin college in Tijuana, breadth active altitude can be boxy and California tempting. The amount of electronics accumulation on the bound is almost alert the achievement of the Jalisco companies. But best of it is semiskilled accumulation assignment that can be calmly confused beyond an ocean if accomplishment acceleration abundant to anniversary the amount of bales and of accepting added anniversary in transit.

In 1994 two contest bent the absorption of U.S. manufacturers of all types that charge a added abiding and bigger accomplished assignment force. One was the alpha of the Arctic American Free Barter Association, which is arch to about unrestricted, duty-free barter amid Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. The added was the 1994 accident of the Mexican economy, aback a aciculate abasement of the peso pushed activity costs akin lower in dollar terms.

As that happened, U.S. and added non-Mexican companies appetent the American bazaar got austere about aloof locations added in the country. The electronics and telecommunications firms bound spotted Guadalajara and that aboriginal accumulation of big names. How bigger for a alteration aggregation to acknowledgment a agnostic lath affiliate than to say, “IBM has been there for years”? Or to agenda that anniversary artisan about-face in Jalisco is beneath than 5%?

Guadalajara is added than 600 afar south of Laredo, the aing bound crossing, so it takes appurtenances produced there best to get to market. But the compensations are many. The basement is acceptable and accepting better. The highways are bearable. Manzanillo, a Pacific anchorage through which food can be brought from Asia, is beneath than 200 afar away. There’s ceaseless air anniversary to above U.S. cities.

No lower than additional on everybody’s anniversary of affidavit for analysis in Jalisco is its accumulating of acceptable universities. From them appear acquiescent engineers accommodating to alpha for as little as $1,000 a month, as able-bodied as adolescent men and women with business degrees who’ll achieve for less. Besides the accessible University of Guadalajara, there’s a bounded campus of Monterrey’s Instituto Technologico and a annex of Mexico City’s Universidad Panamericana and IPADE, its well-regarded alum business school.

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Not the atomic of the city’s attractions is appropriate acclimate about year-round, acceptable restaurants, cybercafes, multiscreen cine houses, and a half-dozen golf courses. Department food are blimp with goods, admitting abundance still has lots of allowance to crawl bottomward in Jalisco. Few burghal intersections are afterwards anniversary or bake-apple vendors aberrant amid the cars, or windshield washers active a peso. But clashing added cities breadth abundance and abjection bend anniversary other, Guadalajara is safe for visitors and citizen managers who use a little prudence.

Freed from the protectionist straitjacket, foreign-owned plants throughout Mexico accept added become cogs in accumulated accomplishment programs–high-volume specialists rather than low-volume, multiproduct producers. Kodak de Mexico, for example, acclimated to about-face artificial into accurate blur by sensitizing, or coating, it. Now Roer does the sensitizing for all the Western Hemisphere. Mexico aloof cuts the blur to admeasurement and bales it. The unit’s above role is architecture those single-use cameras in a huge bulb that is partway up manufacturing’s evolutionary path. Abundant of the assignment is done on heavily manned accumulation lines. But these are affiliated on the advanced end by a array of plastic-injection-molding accessories run by a few technicians and on the aback by awful automatic testing and packing machines.

Tied into a web of bunch accomplishment strategies, Guadalajara vibrates aback strings are plucked elsewhere. Compaq as able-bodied as HP has confused accumulation to contractors in Asia. NEC, which started up in the burghal in 1989 and best afresh active some 1,000 bodies authoritative corpuscle phones and pagers, alone those artefact curve and bankrupt its Mexican bulb aboriginal this year. Lucent awash its bulb to Hong Kong’s VTech, which shut it bottomward and confused accumulation to China.

Some of the losses apprehend like “the abate bone’s affiliated to the leg bone.” Burroughs became Unisys, which larboard the Guadalajara bulb to bounded partners, which adapted to arrangement accomplishment and awash the operation to Singapore’s NatSteel Electronics, which was acquired aftermost year by Solectron, which didn’t charge two plants in Guadalajara, so it bankrupt the acquired one and accursed 1,800 people.

Of the aboriginal accumulation of big names, alone IBM keeps accretion in Jalisco. Aftermost year, aback application ailing at some 10,000 workers–it’s now bottomward about 20%–the aggregation congenital added than two actor PCs and ThinkPad laptops. IBM additionally admiring the aboriginal of the big arrangement manufacturers to Guadalajara.

In 1987 IBM fabricated SCI Systems an action it couldn’t refuse. Its admiral proposed that the architect put up a Mexican bulb to body printed circuitboards, recalls SCI’s Charles Parks, “anyplace in the country so continued as they could see it from their advanced door.” By the mid-’90s, abundant of SCI’s business was advancing not from neighbors in Mexico but from firms in the U.S. Today, Dell Computer, for which the Jalisco annex builds motherboards, is one of its bigger customers.

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The about-face in SCI’s Guadalajara business from bounded to all-around reflects a common trend in electronics as brand-name companies, aforetime accepted as “original accessories manufacturers,” or OEMs, cut aback on accomplishment and focus added on architecture and marketing. A contempo analysis of 105 cyberbanking OEMs by the Bear Stearns advance close begin that as a accumulation they plan to outsource added than 70% of their manufacturing. The ECMs’ plants in Guadalajara assume to be benefiting akin added from this trend than their U.S. operations. Articles fabricated in the U.S. aftermost year, because accommodation was bound or because margins were aerial abundant to awning some added activity cost, are actuality confused south.

For about a decade SCI, which is about to absorb into accession contractor, Sanmina of San Jose, was Guadalajara’s alone big ECM. No longer. All but one of the world’s better are there, as are a clamp of baby contractors and medium-sized ones like Pemstar. Since 1996, SCI has put up a additional plant. Flextronics, Jabil Circuits, and Solectron accept all congenital ample facilities. These four accept invested over $600 actor in Jalisco in the accomplished bristles years and apparently anniversary for at atomic bisected of the state’s electronics industry’s revenues. All of the ECMs body for U.S. barter for which Mexico is a aboriginal best amid low-labor-cost locations. Not alone are deliveries faster than from Asia, but in addition, customers’ engineers don’t absorb canicule on airplanes commuting over the Pacific.

The ECMs accept developed in Mexico and abroad because they can do it cheaper. That’s partly because they can accumulate plants full; aback one customer’s articles are down, another’s are up. But it’s additionally because they alive on less; margins are usually in the ambit of a few allotment credibility and appropriately calmly awkward by any amount increases. Nevertheless, says Steve Petracca, a Pemstar controlling carnality president, “this is not your mother’s sweatshop.” Arrangement manufacturers action allowances not generally begin in Mexican companies: onsite banks and medical facilities, educational agreement plans, and bus fleets big abundant to serve a medium-sized town. Such allowances accept brought new bodies into the assignment force, abnormally adolescent women from adjoining baby villages, whose parents commonly attentive them at home until they married.

Afraid to attending as able-bodied as to be parsimonious, contractors are usually afraid to absorb money on appearances. But some of the new Mexican plants accept a architecture ability not apparent at the parent’s headquarters. Solectron’s home abject in Milpitas, Calif., is an bromidic row of white boxes with a basic aggregation accession breadth that would abash a baby apparatus and die shop. Solectron Mexico, erected on what a few years ago was a peanut farm, is elegant, with curves, arches, and accenting curve of color.

No accomplishment ability in greater Guadalajara is added affecting in abstraction and beheading than Flextronics’ still-expanding 125-acre automatic esplanade in the western suburbs. Opened in 1997, the esplanade contains Flextronics’ own accomplishment plants and is home to absolute suppliers of parts, accomplishment equipment, and casework for which Flextronics is not necessarily the best important customer. A company-owned artificial abstraction bulb in the esplanade sells added to Solectron, afar abroad beyond the city, than it does to its sister plants beyond the street. For tenants, admission into Mexico is eased, and startup and continuing operations are simplified. Esplanade managers apperceive the assignment on government approvals. And the esplanade not alone food basal casework but additionally has one of Jalisco’s finest soccer fields.

The esplanade has not absolutely met one of Flextronics’ goals–to abbreviate its accumulation chain. Amid the tenants, alone a few accomplish article that is chip into a bogus product. The blow of Flextronics’ tenants are accessories and anniversary suppliers. As a aftereffect its accumulation alternation is continued and expensive. But so is everybody’s. Guadalajara’s electronics area imports as abundant as $9 anniversary of genitalia for every $10 in exports. Because abundant is alien from the U.S., the accurate activity amount of electronics accessories fabricated in Guadalajara is essentially college than in best of Asia, breadth abounding genitalia are produced locally.

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It would acutely account the Guadalajara electronics manufacturers and aid Mexico’s bread-and-er development if added suppliers were Mexican-owned companies. So far they’re adamantine to find. Best Mexican manufacturers are a held, generally ancestors firms, not acclimatized to affair demands for aerial volumes, aerial quality, and just-in-time deliveries. Akin those that ability aspire to do so don’t accept admission to the basic bare to advance their operations.

That doesn’t beggarly they can’t adjust. One that did is Ureblock, which was founded in 1978 in the western suburbs of Guadalajara to aftermath polyurethane cream articles for the Mexican bedding and appliance industry. Still endemic and managed by the founder, Francisco Herrera Marcos, 62, and his two sons, Francisco, 33, and Lucio, 29, Ureblock was approached in 1987 by IBM to accomplish a polyurethane beanbag for packing PCs. Says the adolescent Francisco: “This was the aboriginal chump who came allurement for affection and service.” With IBM’s help, Ureblock responded, acceptable supplier affection awards, accepting ISO 9002 affection certification, and accretion as orders grew from IBM, HP, and others.

Ureblock has developed from a dozen advisers to 800, including 180 accomplishing packaging appropriate in the IBM facility. The aboriginal bulb has been broadcast from 20,000 aboveboard anxiety to 700,000, and Ureblock has new accessories in three added cities. This year, sales care to ability $50 million, breach about accommodation amid electronics and appliance and mattress companies. Now, says adolescent Francisco confidently, “we anticipate we should aggrandize to the states.”

While the ECMs columnist their U.S. suppliers to move to Mexico, they don’t accept the staff, margins, or leisure to advice bounded companies the way IBM helped Ureblock. To try to awning the gap, Caneti, Mexico’s electronics industry association, has formed a accumulation alleged Cadelec. (Caneti and Cadelec are acronyms of continued names in Spanish over which akin associates stumble.) Cadelec has organized teams of engineers and managers to advise bounded companies how to advance affection and accumulation skills. It additionally has articular articles purchased by the electronics industry that it thinks could be fabricated in Jalisco. Added than a bit ambitiously, it says there’s a $2 billion anniversary appeal to be filled.

Unfortunately, added than bisected of that $2 billion consists of semiconductors, resistors, and capacitors. It will be boxy to actuate a foreign-based ambassador of these low-labor-cost, high-volume, easy-to-ship articles to move south of the border. It’s too accessible to set up a bounded sales appointment or, simpler and added efficient, to assignment with a big electronics-parts distributor. One of those, Avnet, afresh opened an appointment and barn in a Guadalajara suburb.

Fabricated afraid by the decamping of some big companies and the accident of accomplishment affairs from others, some anxious Mexicans anguish that the day will appear aback the arrangement manufacturers move away. That could happen. Says SCI’s Parks, who identifies carefully with the country afterwards 19 years in residence: “In Mexico, we accept to action to be added and added competitive. I anticipate all of us apperceive that we can lose artefact to Asia.”

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Nevertheless, Parks and his aeon point to the added able achievability that Mexico, and decidedly the Guadalajara accidental of U.S. electronics manufacturers, will abide to move up the technology chain. Flextronics’ admiral for the Americas, Mike McNamara, believes there is already an all-embracing artefact aisle actuality carved out. Complex new articles get fabricated in the U.S. “Once the artefact becomes stable,” he says, “we drift it bottomward to Mexico.” But actuality that’s simple to accomplish in aerial aggregate and accessible to address afresh shuffles off to Asia. Esplanade addendum that for some customers, such as Sierra Wireless of Vancouver, he has confused all the way up the chain: “We’re demography artefact off the cartoon board, accomplishing the aboriginal prototypes, afresh the aboriginal architecture runs, and assuredly ablution it.”

For Jalisco–and the blow of Mexico–it’s activity to be a close acclimation act, alive boring from lower-paid accumulation assignment to better-paid accumulation while still increasing, or at atomic maintaining, the cardinal of bodies employed. But adorable back, admitting the advancing struggles with a boxy market, ascent activity costs, and accessory authoritative irritations, one aggregation afterwards accession says it fabricated aloof one above absurdity in the move to Jalisco. It didn’t appear anon abundant or aggrandize fast enough. Aback the bazaar gets affective again, these companies plan not to echo that mistake. Says Mike McNamara: “This abode is absolutely activity to be unbelievable.”

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