By Rachel Gonzalez-Dunham

Mexico has always been a friendly U.S. neighbor and vacation destination of choice for many Americans. In the past few years, it has also become an attractive international investment opportunity. In spite of the negative media coverage regarding violence, drug activity and corruption, global businesses recognize opportunities in this nation of young, skilled laborers and a managerial work force with low labor costs. Here are some reasons and points of interest for investing in Mexico.

KEY ROLE-PLAYERS:  According to the Mexican Ministry of the Economy, in 2011 foreign direct investment reached $19.4 billion with more than half designated to the manufacturing sector, and steadily increased for the past two years.

Manufacturers like Nissan, which recently celebrated a record production of more than 9 million motors, plans to open a second facility this year. General Motors spent $540 million to expand its plant in Toluca; KONE, a global leader in the elevator and escalator industry continues expansion plans across several Mexican states; Alcoa the aluminum producer, is expanding production; General Electric and many more continue to capitalize and lead by example to attract more foreign investment firms. Manufacturing leads to other industries such as real estate. A company worth mentioning is Prologis, an operator and developer of industrial real estate worldwide. Currently operating 185 industrial buildings in cities across Mexico, it is planning to build at least 50 more industrial parks throughout Mexico.

POSITIVE DEMOGRAPHICS AND LOW LABOR COSTS: Mexico has very positive demographics for the next decade, and forecasts predict strong population growth and low dependency ratios. (More workers than people depending on government support). U. S. businesses seeking friendly economic policy, strong property rights, low shipping and labor costs, easy geographic proximity and little time zone differences should seriously consider Mexico’s potential and recognize the advantages of doing business there. Mexico could become the next manufacturing leader of the world.

WHY NOW: For the past 20+ years, the Mexican government has been making numerous improvements to the infrastructure, transportation, energy and telecommunications and has placed its economy among the 13th largest in the world with plenty of purchasing power and expanding middle class.

Mexico avoided the financial crisis experienced by most developed economies, and through its policy has promoted a solid banking industry with low risk exposure and currency reserves.

New President Enrique Pena Nieto has introduced pro-market reforms and has vowed to pour massive investment in the country’s oil and gas industry. Part of the plan is to allow for the private sector to bid on projects of exploration and production of natural gas and oil refining. This will open great opportunities for business across all sectors in need of expansion.

In the private sector, if you plan to purchase a home for personal use, you can find great bargains. Foreigners can buy and sell property in Mexico through a Direct Property Deed which gives them outright ownership as long as the property is 50-60 miles from the coast. The law for owning property close to the coast is being revised and is creating an influx of activity on the residential sector that will likely lead to higher prices.

Whether you are planning a business expansion, commercial, retail, or residence, the time to invest south of the border is now! Don’t let this opportunity get away!

Rachel G. Dunham, Broker, C.I.P.S., GRI, SRES,TRLP Candidate, 2013 HAR International Advisory Group member