TBY talks to Federico Martínez Urmeneta, President of Tradeco, on the construction of the world’s highest cable-stayed bridge, and the needs and trends of Mexico’s infrastructure.
TBY How has Tradeco developed since its establishment in 1992?
FEDERICO MARTÍNEZ URMENETA Since 1995, we have been working all over the Americas, including Colombia and the US. The 1995 crisis pushed us to branch out outside of Mexico, and we took advantage of that. After President Zedillo’s administration, the new government invested a lot of money in infrastructure, but had many troubles. During President Fox’s administration, our economy began to grow in 2003, and we have been very active over the last decade. Our company’s story is 20 years old in February 2012. We can thank our country’s government for improving the economy in the early 2000s, and our business is doing much better.
The Baluarte Bridge is the world’s highest cable-stayed bridge. What are the main challenges you faced in this project?
The Secretariat of Communications and Transportation hired us to build a bridge starting from nothing. When we arrived, we had to build 25 kilometers of access roads to get to the site. We had to build a small city there to house the more than 2,500 workers and engineers for the project and supply sleeping facilities. After the roads and the city, the bridge itself was still the toughest challenge. Construction started in May 2007, and the bridge was finished in February 2012.
What did President Calderón mean when he described the bridge as symbol of prosperity?
In politics in Mexico and worldwide, a huge challenge is metaphorically building bridges between parties. He took this metaphor of building a bridge to indicate that we should begin to build bridges between the parties here in Mexico. This bridge won the Guinness World Record, but he is using the bridge as a symbol beyond its technical greatness; he’s not talking about the concrete or the steel.
How will the construction of the superhighway attract investment to the area?
I believe that there will be a lot of investment in Durango, a state that had been isolated from the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico and is now well connected both ways. There will be a lot of investments in dry customs, where logistics companies will build huge hubs ready to store dry goods and redistribute them to the north, to places such as Texas and Arizona. There will also be a lot of investments in Mazatlán, which needs a larger seaport. The government should invest around $10 billion in the harbor. We need to build new facilities that can handle imports from Asia.
What are some of your other projects?
Tradeco is building a large gasoline and jet fuel storage facility in Veracruz, and building tanks for PEMEX to guarantee the storage of fuel for the Mexico City region. Our group is also building a large crude oil splitting facility for PEMEX in Cárdenas, Tabasco, in order to separate crude oil from salt and water that we can then export and sell. We are also building the largest jail in Mexico, with the capacity to hold 2,700 inmates to be completed in Veracruz in March 2012. Tradeco is also involved in a private-public venture to operate a jail with the capacity to hold 500 women in Coahuila, which will be open in March 2013.
How do you assess the infrastructure needs of Mexico?
We need to build 10 times more in the next 20 years than we built in the last 30. Our economic growth and the government’s new public policies will allow for the investment of more that 5% of GDP in infrastructure. If you do the math, we will have enough money. There also needs to be a method to combine retirement funds with private investments. The biggest challenge will be to continue pushing the government to make investments.
What trends do you identify in the construction sector in Mexico?
With 25 years of constant investment infrastructure, you can have a company making revenues of between €6 billion and €20 billion as they do in Spain. In Mexico, the top two companies combined are not that large. I firmly believe that we will develop strong construction companies in Mexico that can reach those kinds of figures in the next 20 years. We are going to have a lot of good opportunities, and can start with Mexico as a platform and move to other countries as our construction company grows.
© The Business Year