By Jesús Aguado
There are 6,000 businesses registered in San Miguel de Allende. They vary in size, but all together they employ some 62,250 people. The current pandemic has changed things dramatically, and while it is not known how many people are no longer employed, we do know that most of the workers are now at home—some with full salaries, others with a 50 percent salary, and others earning whatever they can doing odd jobs.
Prior to the crisis, Francisco Garay, the director of Desarrollo Económico (Economic Development Offices), indicated that according to the latest figures, 40 to 45 percent of Producto Interno Bruto (Gross Domestic Product)—or PIB—of San Miguel is generated by tourism. Another 25 percent comes from self-service stores and professional services, many of which also provide services to tourists. The remainder of the PIB is brought in by the agricultural sector (some 15 percent), which includes milk production, agriculture and other related small and medium-sized businesses. Another small percentage of the PIB is produced by the Polígono Industrial Park and by other miscellaneous services throughout the city. The industrial park opened in 2015 along the highway to Querétaro, with 16 businesses providing 6,250 jobs.)
While today the city depends primarily on tourism, officials recognize that the businesses which are continuing to operate during today’s crisis are agricultural and auto industries—and that for San Miguel to continue to function in times like these, it needs legitimate industries.
“Guanajuato is an example, in every sense, of the economic, social and human growth and development, and San Miguel de Allende will not be left behind,” said Mayor Luis Alberto Villarreal when he opened the new, second phase of the industrial park in March. “This is the time when we have to step up and say that we believe in Mexico because Guanajuato and San Miguel have made us believe in this country.”
He also spoke about the 180 thousand inhabitants of San Miguel, with its population dispersed throughout the city and 540 rural communities. He said that it seems incredible that the industrial park had added 10 percent to its labor force and provided work for an additional 570 men and women who were added to the 5,680 who had been working there already and, according to officials, “earned a good salary.”
According to Garay, prior to the pandemic, there were already two projects approved for the industrial park, and another company interested in joining. “Announcements will come between April and May; however, we now have to wait until the end of the epidemic to find out if the plans will go on as planned.” One of the automotive companies involved in the plan is from the United States and the other from Germany.
“Today we are champions of tourism in Latin America and in all heritage-designated cities with less than 200 thousand residents. These statistics are corroborated by the investment of over 200 million dollars that prestigious hotels are bringing in, something that is not happening in the nation’s beach towns. With this we are now fixed as the most important hotel industry without a beach in all of Latin America,” said Mayor Villarreal.
In the current crisis tourism has been the industry most affected. Restaurants have closed, hotels function behind closed doors or not at all, the wedding industry has been suspended, and transport companies that depend on tourism are not bringing in any income.
It is because of this that officials such as Helio Bastién (Independent), Laura González, (MORENA), and Alan Álvarez (Partido Verde Ecologista) agree that San Miguel must open its doors to industry. They also agree that it must be clean industry that does not harm the environment and should be located within the Polígono Industrial Park. The town council continues to be in session and agrees that when the crisis is over, they will analyze and suggest what is best for the city.
Working with industry
Garay stated that in San Miguel business leaders are working on diversifying the economy so that in the future it will not be so greatly affected by such crisis. Agriculture is essential and is functioning at 100 percent. The automotive industry also continues in the manufacturing of medical and military products and agricultural tools. In San Miguel, 35 percent of the economy continues to function in the city.
Garay also stated that because of new industry in San Miguel, there are now more academic options for high school and university students. The companies that have come here are actively recruiting talented students who could find employment with them after completing their education. They have recruited 150 Sanmiguelenses that have taken positions at different levels, and some of these employees have been sent to Europe and Asia.
“The third generation will begin when the crisis is over. The opportunity to continue diversifying the economy is here,” concluded Garay.