Maquiladoras in the 21st Century: Six Strategies for Success
The maquiladora industry was conceived as a win-win strategic economic platform for foreign companies and Mexican workers. The primary benefactor has been U.S. companies, which became more cost efficient by employing highly productive, lower-cost Mexican workers. However, the direct link between the U.S. economy and the corresponding employment of Mexican workers has resulted in unpredictable growth-retrenchment cycles. While the globalization of trade has grown dramatically, the maquiladoras have been slow to adapt to new trade realities, including the rise of China as a global manufacturing power. The more intense global competition and the recent financial crisis have challenged Mexico’s structural deficiencies and the maquiladora model with its focus on low-cost labor. Can the maquiladoras remain viable in this seemingly unpredictable economic environment? In this article, we provide a brief history of the maquiladoras, discuss the new external trade environment realities, and offer six strategies that can transform the maquiladoras into a sustainable economic model well into the future.