AREA OF EXCELLENCE

Mexico 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

León has worked hard to set up elements of institutionality and respect for the law that give foreign investors greater certainty.

Héctor López Santillana
BIOGRAPHY
Héctor López Santillana has been Mayor of León since 2015. He was reelected by the city in 2018 for a second term until 2021. Having worked in the private sector in the significant shoe-making industry of the region, he has also held of position of Governor of Guanajuato and Secretary of Economic Development for the state.

How has León flourished within the investment ecosystem of the Bajío region?

In León, we have a spirit of entrepreneurship and work at all levels. The unions are oriented to productivity and quality because they have understood that productivity and sustainability bring improvements to working conditions. León is also oriented toward long-term planning; its first Municipal Institute of Planning was created 25 years ago. This institute guides diagnoses, strategies, and long-term plans with a vision of continuity. The participation and involvement of citizens are important, which is why our planning processes involve a citizen council. We have 32 councils in total at the municipal level addressing topics such as mobility, waste management, and security. Adding to that, in León we firmly believe in institutions. The first way to give certainty to the national or foreign investor is through certainty. We work to create elements of institutionality and respect for the law that provide confidence to investors. A city's liveability and quality of human capital are hugely contingent upon security, which is why this administration is always sharply focused on the best national and international practices.

Have you seen much recent FDI?

Guanajuato as a whole has investments from 18 countries, the biggest of which are the US, Japan, Germany, and Italy. Italy has a long history in sectors such as footwear, chemicals, and tanneries, while Germany and Japan have excelled in the automotive sector. Over the previous triennium, we established a goal of raising USD2.5 billion in productive foreign investment, which we fulfilled. In 2019 to date, we have 22 new projects with an amount of USD435 million and more than 5,000 jobs. Within these, 13 are industrial projects, eight are service, and one is commercial. One of León's weaknesses used to be that it did not have an industrial park. Today, we have seven, with a total infrastructure and services area of 1,300ha. This will allow us to house these investments in suitable places, take care of sustainability and security, and have the elements of service and availability to facilitate access to population centers.

Which industries find León an optimal place for their investments?

León has three characteristics that make it very strong. First, we have all the technologies related to plastics, such as injection, rotomolding, and thermoforming. Second, we have a great specialization in metal-mechanical manufacturing. Third, the people of León are skilled. These ensure the development of a significant number of industries. Obviously, given the environment of the automotive industry, many of its components are being developed here, as well as companies that supply the automotive sector. Other sectors in León closely related to plastics are food, agriculture, greenhouses, quilts, and irrigation systems. Adding to that, we see a lot of potential in biotechnology, especially biotechnology applied to healthcare, given that we have the needed components. Our public and private hospital infrastructure are also excellent, while our medical school is one of the most prestigious in Latin America. Moreover, we have one of the world's best optics research centers, in addition to a center for research and technology assistance applied to development that works with biomechanical engineering.

What are the main economic objectives of the 2018-2021 administration?

As a reelected administration, we want to keep delivering the same level of results. In the economic area, the objective is to reach USD2.5 billion in investments. We are so far on track to do so, as we have supported 22 new companies to set up shop in León. The economic team from the state of Guanajuato and the municipality of León will also actively engage with their counterparts in Asia to raise awareness about the benefits of companies being established here. At the end of the day, we also want to simplify the regulatory environment, which has tended to be monodisciplinary and vertical.