Is your goal now to nurture and create more business within the US or are you looking at Canada and the rest of Latin America as well?
My main focus is to increase our aerospace business in the US. However, we are investigating opportunities and developing a strategy for South America, and Canada will soon be our third market. In South America, our targets are Chile and Argentina, which are major markets with great growth potential.
Why do customers choose a smaller firm like yours versus larger players in the region?
We are really focused on the customer. Everything has to do with the customer and their perception. We have been going head-to-head with Mexican companies and lost some contracts to them as well as China. Having said that, even though companies are becoming more cost sensitive and Mexico has the shipping advantage, we have developed strategies of our own to control shipping costs, maintain quality, and focus on customer support. Shipping companies give us a great rate for returning goods from here to the US, and instead of making a profit on that, we pass along those savings to our customers. To compete better, we have learned from all these adverse experiences and created a strategy to overcome them. We do this through our team of six managers, including myself, with two female engineers. Around 85% of our workforce are women. Another reason we can succeed as a smaller company is because the regional market does not have extremely large customers. They choose smaller companies because their orders are not large. They require good customer service, including on-time delivery, good quality, and competitive pricing, and they know that their orders will be important to a medium-sized company like Camtronics. Costa Rica has managed to project itself as a country where quality and serious work practices are valued and practiced.
How did the notion of aerospace as an economic differentiator come about and why aerospace specifically?
Based upon data from its marketing department, Procomer came to the conclusion that there was a good opportunity for machining companies in Costa Rica to work in the aerospace industry because of its variety and volume in manufactured mechanical parts. Procomer's approach was to help various companies with free zone status to accompany them in commercial missions and, more recently, facilitate important trade fairs within the aerospace sector. The next step was to integrate all those machining companies as well as electronics and service companies into a cluster. There is a large number of machining companies with the right capabilities which have unused capacity. Once we enter into higher volume, we need quality control and more manufacturing specifications. This will place great strain on the cluster in the next year, since many do not want to take any chances. They are present in the industry and paying the fees but are too easygoing. The core problem within the aerospace cluster is that there are few companies that have an aggressive approach.
Are some companies ripe for acquisition from someone who would make them more aggressive and competitive?
For the aerospace cluster to become strong, there are certain phases it must go through. It has electronics and machining but it desperately needs finishing, which is lacking in this country. If we had to entice an American company to come in, we would like to go into finishing, as that will support all areas of machining and would really provide an overall lift to the industry. Currently, Camtronics is not looking for an acquisition, but rather for large, long-term customers who will allow for continuous growth.