New State in Town

Miguel Alonso Reyes, Governor of Zacatecas, Mexico, visited London in a bid to encourage UK firms to set up in his state. We caught up with him to find out what Zacatecas has to offer…

Zacatecas isn’t very well-known in the UK, what’s the mainstay of its economy?

Miguel Alonso Reyes: We are very well established in the mining area. I am sure your readers know Fresnillo Plc, the London-listed miner, well it is based in Zacatecas. Mining is a big tradition in the state and a characteristic of our economy. We are the biggest producer of silver in Mexico and also the number one miner of lead and zinc. We’re also the country’s second-biggest producer of copper and gold, so we really have a strong position in metallic mining. Moreover, there are plenty of new mining plays that can be developed in the state.

So Zacatecas is big in mining; what other areas is it trying to develop?

Governor of Zacatecas, Miguel Alonso Reyes

MAR: Historically we haven’t had lots of industrial experience in non-mining sectors but over the last few years that’s begun to change. We’ve managed to attract auto-part producers from Japan, China, Europe and the US. Another promising area for us is renewable energy. We have some of the lowest cloud cover in Mexico, which gives us excellent conditions for the application of solar technology. We also have extremely strong and consistent winds in some parts of the state, which mean that wind farms there can have high capacity factors, that makes them more profitable. Finally we are looking to develop tourism. Zacatecas has got a great cultural patrimony and that makes it very attractive for tourists. The city of Zacatecas is a UNESCO site, while the state is home to five ‘magic towns’, of outstanding historic and cultural status.

Given that other states in Mexico are already well-established in these areas, how can Zacatecas compete?

We have a number of advantages that will help us attract investment. Perhaps the most important is our human resources. The average age in Zacatecas is 24, which means we have a young and growing population. They are also very qualified with many technical universities in the state. Moreover a strong history of immigration to the US means that much of the population speaks English. Yet because there is still not such an industrial presence, our workers are very loyal. The level of employee turnover is just 3.5%, which is a big advantage compared to other states where workers are always leaving for a different company.

"Historically we haven’t had lots of industrial experience in non-mining sectors but over the last few years that’s begun to change…"

Location is another advantage, as the geographic position of Zacatecas is great, especially for those targeting the US. We are in the centre of northern Mexico, around 600km from Mexico City. We have good quality, non-toll roads connecting us to the United States, so producers based in Zacatecas can get their goods quickly and cheaply to the biggest market in the world

Zacatecas is also a very safe place. International investors often worry about security but our crime rate is below the national average. We’re also safe in terms of natural disasters as we don’t suffer the hurricanes or earthquakes that can affect the rest of the country. Finally we can offer a great quality of life. We know that businesspeople have a life outside of work and in Zacatecas they will be very happy. We have lots of museums, festivals every month and it’s a very fun place to live and work.