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Aerospace in Baja California is advanced according to Tomas Sibaja.

Aerospace in Baja California is advanced according to Tomas Sibaja.

Baja California industry aerospace cluster president, Tomas Sibaja, takes time to talk to Tecma.

Tecma Group of Companies:

Hello and welcome to another installment of Tecma Talk podcast where we speak with experts that are both internal and external to the Tecma Group of companies about things that have to do with manufacturing in Mexico. This particular session is with an outside expert. He is from Baja California, and is the president of the aerospace cluster association that of that state. His name is Tomas Sibaja.

I am very well. Thank you and thank you for the opportunity.

Tecma Group of Companies:

Tomas, before we get into the questions, and inform people about what is going on into the aerospace in Baja California, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, and your organization, if you would please?

Tomas Sibaja:

Sure. My name is Tomas Sibaja. I am the executive president of the Aerospace of the Aerospace Cluster in Baja California. I am currently serving of vice president of an aerospace company by the name of Ceasa Air. We manufacture leather seat covers for the aerospace industry. In addition to that, I have also the opportunity to work with Aero Technical Solutions, which is a company that is based here in Tijuana. It has as its purpose to support all the different technical requirements, i.e., data control and documentation for the industry that is already in operation here in the region.

Tecma Group of Companies:

It has been interesting observing the growth of the aerospace industry in Mexico, in general, as well as the aerospace in Baja California, in particular. There has been double digit growth, probably for the last ten years. Then, of course, there are several places in the country that have aerospace clusters. Obviously, one of them is Baja California. Why is Baja California a place that has positioned itself to be home of one of Mexico’s largest aerospace clusters?

Tomas Sibaja:

The “clusterization” process is something that is not new. Michael Porter, in the book that he wrote in the early 80s, entitled,”The Competitive Advantages of Nations,” mentioned that the best way to be competitive in a global market is to be more specialized. In this regard, once the industry has an ecosystem that moves and supports itself with different stakeholders, it is important to go deeper in the knowledge and the technical expertise of the ecosystem itself. Therefore the aerospace in Baja California, over the last fifty years has been one of the most dynamic, in terms of growth, has been one of the most important industry clusters in the region. Not only in what we call the border region in the Northwest, but also in the whole of Mexico. In that regard, the cluster is not a need, but is something that is part of the way we do business in this part of Mexico.

Tecma Group of Companies:

Just one question to satisfy my personal curiosity about the aerospace industry in Baja California: Certain areas have certain specialties. For instance, if you look to it is arguable that their specialty is aerostructures. If you were to look to Guaymas in the state of Sonora, precision machining of aerospace engine parts is the focus. Is there any specific characterization of the aerospace industry in Baja California that addresses a certain specialization, or are their companies there companies there that address various parts of the supply chain?

Tomas Sibaja:

The difference between other clusters in the aerospace industry all over Mexico, and that of Baja California, is that Baja got involved quite early in this particular sector. As I mentioned, aerospace in Baja Californa has made its presence felt for over fifty years. This compares to Sonora, or even Queretaro, that have been involved in the industry in Mexico’s interior, in general terms, for no more than ten years. If we discuss, or we express that we have, experience with aerospace in Baja California which dates back forty years prior to that, this demonstrates not only diversity, but also the maturity in, basically, the nine segments, and their sub-segments, of an aircraft’s integration. As you know, in order to be competitive nowadays, there needs to be specialization. In this particular Queretaro and Sonora, among others. In the case of aerospace in Baja California, we have the virtue of being active in all of the different segments that
integrate an aircraft, in general terms. To answer your question, we don’t participate in one area in particular. We participate in all the segments of an aircraft.

Tecma Group of Companies:

Given that good explanation of the difference between aerospace in Baja California and those found in other geographies in Mexico, today, what particular projects is your organization looking at right now, either in terms of expanding with businesses that are already there or attracting new ones to your geography?

Tomas Sibaja:

Rather than going forward in the promotional aspect of our advantages, we, as a cluster, are more concerned about how to maintain and the support of the industry that is already in place. We have over thirty projects that we pursue. Most of them are related to two core areas: (1) the supplier development program that we have. What we are looking to do in this area is to provide more competitive support to the companies that are based in our region by trying to identify local, small and medium-sized companies that will participate in aerospace industry in Baja California value
chain. In that regard, being closer to the main clientele that represents the Mexico aerospace industry. To have more local integration is to be more competitive price-wise. This is one of the projects that we consider a core of what our organization does. The second one relates to linkages that we have with the educational institutions at different levels, whether universities, technical schools or specialized centers with the objective to have more human capital precisely to welcome more complex projects to our region. Therefore, amongst those main elements, we have different projects that we pursue. The areas include aeronautical, defense, with the US Department of Defense; space projects, drones, which are unmanned vehicle projects; and the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). Among all of these, we have different projects that are supporting our companies here in the region. For one, in particular, which is the one dealing with space, we have an aggressive and ambitious plan to attract the MX Space Project to Baja California, which will have the capability of manufacturing CubeSats here in our state, specifically in the technological consortium with the idea to have not only the assembly and manufacturing of satellites, but also the launching, propulsion and, evidently, the imaging and sending and control of all these activities. This is something that has been approved and is supported by the Mexican Space Agency. We think that space related projects is an area that we have to explore in more detail, because, in the future, the suborbital area will be something that different countries, specifically Mexico, will be looked at for.

Tecma Group of Companies:

That is a very interesting explanation of how your organization works, because one would clearly be able to ascertain, after hearing what you said, that while local and state economic development organizations are looking outward in terms of attracting new business to aerospace in Baja California, it seems to be the case that your cluster organization is one that is working and looking inward for the purpose of fortifying existing business and making sure that it is successful over time. That being the case, what is the reaction of aerospace companies that are manufacturing in Mexico to cluster organizations such as the one that you just described?

Tomas Sibaja:

One of the advantages of having an organization in place that has the technical expertise, the knowledge and the technical support of the people that come from the industry offers the value of understanding the needs of those involved in production in aerospace in Baja California. In this regard most of our aerospace industry members here in Baja California have spent a considerable amount of their working lives precisely in the field of manufacturing. The acceptance of the aerospace industry, not only in Baja, but also in Southern California is essential and critical to the success of our projects. Evidently, my answes is “yes.” We have been blessed and supported not only by the industry itself, but also by the state, municipal and the authorities at the federal
level to play an important role in order to be able to participate in different topics, forums and activities that provide a showcase of what we are doing in Baja in order to have a more active participation in the global platform.

Tecma Group of Companies:

It is interesting how you have spoken about specifics, and how you are looking inwardly, but let’s just blow things up to a more global context now. If you are looking at aerospace in Baja California, specifically an in general terms, how do you see aerospace in Baja California fitting into challenges that face the global industry worldwide? What are they, and how is Baja California facing them?

Tomas Sibaja:

In the past twenty years, Mexico, in general, has been the main recipient of foreign direct investment in the aerospace industry worldwide. Mexico has become a natural hub, especially in the North American region, but also for European companies that are looking into this particular market: the US, as a whole, and Canada. In that regard, it is important to note that Mexico has become the largest recipient of aerospace FDI. Baja, alone in Mexico, by far, has been a major player in Mexico that provides, not only offers participants in the global industry a higher degree of certainty. We have figured ways of addressing this with our major players and communities on different levels. In particular, for instance, knowing that Boeing, in Seattle, has expressed to its peers and supply chain partners that they need to be more competitive, no matter where they are, in that particular moment, they think that in order to be competitve they have to be creative. In
order to be creative, you have to have people that are willng to change and willing to participate in this particular sector. As you know, there is a backlog in the aerospace industry.(this is public information) of over US $260 billion. This means that, if you are looking to have a new airplane on your tarmac, you have to wait eight years. Mexico has become an added opportunity to reduce, somehow, this backlog. We know this area of opportunity well, and know that the forecast for the next twenty years is already clear. We are able to align our goals, our objectives and our plans to achieve those particular milestones.

Tecma Group of Companies:

it seems that, with the backlog of orders that you have spoken of, there is going to be plenty of opportunities in Mexico and for aerospace in Baja California to further develop. Given that prospect I have one last question. There is a lot of information to be had in this area and a lot of ground to be covered. Typically, in these discussions, we just scratch the surface. There are most likely some listeners of this podcast that are interested in learning more details about your organization, as well as about aerospace in Baja California. If someone wants to get in touch with you to answer questions that may have been provoked as a result of having listened to this discussion, how can they do that?

Tomas Sibaja:

We have a website. The URL is www.bajaaerospace.org. Listeners can also reach me via email. My address is presidente@bajaaerospace.org, or I can be called at my cellphone in Mexico, which is 52-1-664-184-1741.

Tecma Group of Companies:

That’s perfect. Tomas, I want to thank you for the time for wanting to speak with us today. We hope that the success in aerospace in Baja California that has been evident over the last fifty years continues for the foreseeable future. Thank you, again, for taking time to speak with us.

Tomas Sibaja:

Thank you. All the best. If you have any additional requests, don’t hesitate to ask.

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