Sony will increase work force in Tijuana
Baja officials see it as sign of recovery
By Sandra Dibble
Friday, June 26, 2009 at 2 a.m.
TIJUANA – After months of layoffs and losses in the maquiladora industry, Baja California officials are celebrating the announcement this week that Sony is adding 1,500 positions to its work force in Tijuana, hailing it as a hopeful sign of the sector's recovery.
Sony's decision to expand in Tijuana follows the company's announcement last month that it is shutting down an LCD television manufacturing plant in Mexicali, one of five Sony factories being shuttered worldwide.
State officials say they are nonetheless encouraged by the company's decision, which represents a $10 million investment for Tijuana, and the expansion of the company's work force to 5,000 employees from 3,500 before the end of the year.
Alfonso Alvarez Juan, Baja California's subsecretary for economic development, said Wednesday that the investments are signs of recovery in the city's maquiladora sector, which has struggled with a drop in U.S. demand for cars, televisions and other consumer products.
“Companies are looking for ways to remain competitive, and that's something in favor of Baja California,” Alvarez said.
Sony's expansion in Tijuana is the result of moving operations from the Mexicali plant and another closed facility in Pittsburgh to Tijuana, Alvarez said.
A spokeswoman for Sony in San Diego said company officials would not be available for interviews this week. Sony officials have told Mexican media that the 500 remaining workers at the Mexicali plant, which had more than 2,300 employees in 2007, will be gradually laid off through September.
Sony, one of the largest maquiladora operators in Tijuana, had 7,000 workers there in 2006, according to the state of Baja California's economic development secretariat.
“Sony holds an important symbolic weight in the city,” said Alfredo Hualde, a researcher at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte, a Tijuana think tank. “But we need to examine the indicators before affirming that there is a recovery taking place.”
The city currently counts 140,000 manufacturing jobs – a far drop from its peak of 175,000 positions before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But economic conditions, including the peso's devaluation and rising oil prices, are again attracting the interest of manufacturing companies, said Jesús Manuel Sández, the city's secretary for economic development.
“Things are slowly recovering,” Sández said. “By December, we're going to be much better off than we are now.”
Sandra Dibble: (619) 293-1716; firstname.lastname@example.org
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