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Mexico gets a bad rap for safety. The country is perceived by many in the US and Europe as being run by drug cartels and frequented by shootings and gang violence. But if this is actually the case, why do so many companies set up operations there? Could it simply be a matter of taking common-sense precautions and doing your homework?
The fact is, Mexico is a vibrant, developed, and relatively safe country with a drug-crime problem in some areas. As in many countries, it’s important to take certain precautions to stay safe in Mexico. Unlike the urban myths and sensationalistic journalism, Mexico is quite safe for business for those who take the steps to make it so.
Overall, Mexico’s public safety is rated relatively high. Mexico’s federal, state, and local governments go to great lengths to ensure moderate peace and tranquility on the streets in spite of rising violence among the cartels. Crime and violence statistics show the overwhelming majority of violence is gang-related and confined to turf battles or internal cartel dealings. The fact is, the most commonly reported crimes on Mexican streets are petty theft and pickpocketing, much like in the US.
However, particularly along the border where much of the maquiladora manufacturing is based, there is cause for caution. There are elevated levels of drug-related kidnappings and shootings. Operational safety is an important consideration for manufactures to make sure their workers and factories are safe in Mexico. Certain safety practices and important steps to reduce risk are advisable.
To fully leverage the strategic benefits of maquiladora manufacturing enjoyed by literally thousands of American companies in Mexico, safety should be addressed. Manufacturing for export in Mexico is both safe and profitable for those who take the proper precautions and understand the reality of this nearshoring alternative.
Below are eight crucial steps any manufacturing company can take to make sure their operations are safe in Mexico:
It’s important when doing business in Mexico to choose the right industrial park. Typically, the best industrial parks are located outside of the cities, far away from where the majority of gang crimes take place. These locations operate almost as small, walled cities, usually gated and guarded by reputable security firms that keep workers and equipment safe inside.
Many companies hire private security to patrol their factories and provide an additional layer of protection within the industrial park. These firms handle everything from perimeter security to addressing internal incidents to manning inbound and outbound security at the gates. Additionally, if company executives feel it is warranted, personal security can be contracted to accompany management personnel on the streets of Mexican cities.
US executives, in an effort to stay safe in Mexico while travelling, typically shy away from renting a car. Instead, they usually hire private transportation with experienced Mexican drivers, who are more knowledgeable of which areas to avoid and how to handle the circumstances they encounter in transit. Additionally, you can hire a taxi from a reputable firm. Never hail one on the street. Instead, have your hotel order one for you, or call an authorized taxi firm or “sitio” you are already familiar with. Familiarize yourself with safety considerations for business travel in Mexico.
As in any country, some areas are safe while others just aren’t. Understand that not every area along the Mexican border or in Mexican cities is right for your business. Do your research. When looking for an area in which to locate your factory, consult a shelter or relocation service provider about which locations are best.
It’s never a good idea to flaunt assets in any country or situation. Manufacturers wanting to play it safe in Mexico should avoid storing expensive equipment in factory parking lots or wearing expensive jewelry in the local markets or leaving extra supplies unguarded. Loud displays like these will increase your risk of being targeted for theft or extortion.
An often-overlooked safety consideration is blackmail. When you are conducting business in a foreign country, the customs and laws can be quite different than you are accustomed to. Mexican governmental representatives are usually upstanding and trustworthy. But there have been reports of blackmail and misleading. To minimize this risk, take the necessary steps to understand and comply with all regulations and laws pertaining to manufacturing in Mexico.
Pick-pocketing and credit card skimming are on the rise in Mexico. When paying with card, never let it leave your sight. Ask waiters to bring the payment terminal to your table or take it directly to the cashier to pay. Stay alert in public places, and store your wallet in a hard-to-reach pocket. Never leave briefcases or technology devices unattended. And don’t use ATMs at night.
From regulatory considerations to vendor and supply sourcing to location selection, it can be difficult navigating this new business environment. Perhaps the most important way to open a manufacturing operation safely in Mexico is to partner with a shelter service. Think of it as protection for your company from the complexities and regulatory burdens of doing business in Mexico while you focus on making your quality product and growing your business. A shelter service provider already has all the on-site connections and networks to open Mexico up to you safely and quickly. You’ll be able to get your operation up and running within a matter of weeks with the assurance of full compliance and safety in a new and exciting country.