he coastal city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in September 2021 was in the global soccer spotlight as it hosted a World Cup qualifying pool match between the Honduran and U.S. teams.
San Pedro Sula, however, had already attracted the global corporate spotlight.
In fact, the attraction began way back in 2005 when manufacturing and real estate multinational Grupo Karim’s founded Green Valley Advanced Manufacturing Hub, an innovative 500-acre campus located in the Naco Valley on San Pedro Sula’s outskirts.
With an established base in textiles and automotive manufacturing, the hub is embarking on a new effort to attract life sciences companies to its proven ecosystem.
“There are several key factors driving companies to set up successful long-term operations at Green Valley,” says Tina Carman, leasing agent director for Central America for Newmark. “Existing quality infrastructure offers a faster, streamlined startup with lower investments in terms of cost and time. The presence of a consolidated Free Trade Zone and the park’s proven track record promote an environment of investment security with a minimum risk exposure. The benefits offered by the National Investment Promotion Program present investors with a comprehensive framework to develop productive activities. Finally, and most important, is the access to a qualified and productive labor force.”
Delta Apparel has been in Honduras for over 24 years, creating more than 3,500 jobs.
“A textile facility is a critical operation where you must have strong energy, water, transportation and port logistics infrastructure in order to succeed. The supply chain and work force in Honduras are key factors to being successful in apparel operations,” says Carlos Encalada, vice president of Delta Apparel. “We are already growing our textile and sewing capacities in Honduras. The new production capacities should start adding more fabric and garments in the first quarter of 2022.”
Coficab, a partner of top automotive wiring harness makers and OEMs, opened a facility at Green Valley in 2016, and counts among its customers other growing employers in Green Valley. Coficab began with a small operation of and is currently operating in a facility built to suit by Green Valley in a record time of six months during the pandemic. Although that facility is 23,000 sq. m. (247,000 sq. ft.), the company is also looking at another expansion.
“Honduras offers several reasons to attract investors, including a free trade zone, tax incentives, cost benefits, as well as high-quality university graduates and a great and stable workforce,” says Mohamed Riahi, board member and chief sales officer for Coficab Group and regional director of Coficab Americas. “When it comes to Green Valley, we feel blessed to have a partner that offers our business the landscape for success through a well-designed ecosystem and world-class support in all business-related matters.”
In addition to best-in-class infrastructure and systems that promote energy efficiency, Green Valley is home to a cogeneration power plant and water treatment plant, as well as the largest industrial solar plant in Central America. But it’s the human resource that may be the most dependable of all.
Gustavo Raudales, president of Grupo Karim’s real estate division, notes that, compared to high labor turnover issues in Mexico’s border corridor, “the turnover in manufacturing is extremely low in Honduras, especially in our developments, with numbers of 1% to 2% per year. And in services the turnover rate is one of the lowest worldwide.”
Raudales says the idea is to “maintain an ecosystem where the customers can focus on their core business while we take care of the rest. Our strong design and engineering capability allows us to deliver built-to-suit, state-of-the-art infrastructure for our customers with short lead times.”
No wonder operations from FORTUNE 500 companies in Grupo Karim’s sites are often the most efficient operations among all of those companies’ manufacturing operations worldwide. “These companies are growing year by year and consolidating their operations in our ecosystem.”
All in all, the grass appears to be greener in Green Valley.
All the Ingredients
Altia Smart City in San Pedro Sula, also developed by Grupo Karim’s, offers an ecosystem of lifestyle and business amenities to support customer service, business process outsourcing (BPO), IT and other sectors, including connectivity to the Network Access Point of the Americas through three fiber-optic submarine cables. Another Altia Smart City in Tegucigalpa, the nation’s capital, is where BPO firm Ibex Global just launched construction of a new contact center with plans to hire up to 2,000 people over two years.
“Honduras has an interesting mix in its labor pool which makes it attractive to the BPO sector,” Carman says, “a large, available, highly bilingual workforce within the young adult age range — prime candidates for call center jobs.”
“Altia Smart City already counts among its clients some of the largest players in the BPO industry,” says Gustavo Raudales. “Our customer experience approach, our support in recruiting and prescreening of employees, and our defined policies and clear objectives in environmental sustainability make Altia the excellent choice in Latin America for the service industry.”
That’s timely, since Honduras itself is looking like a better choice every day.
“Honduras is absolutely hitting the right marks in terms of economic development in Central America,” says Carman. “Honduras stands out amongst its neighboring countries due to the size and quality of both its workforce and infrastructure, while remaining cost-effective.”
“Honduras is more than a production footprint,” says Coficab’s Mohamed Riahi. “The country is leading growth in Central America by focusing on business development in Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and overseas, executing further expansions in the region, and developing products and technologies.”
The assets of Grupo Karim’s are positioned to not only serve the workforce and productivity needs of corporate employers, but the economic development needs of an entire country.