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Borderlands: Dunavant sees opportunities in Mexico amid supply chain disruptions

Memphis-based Dunavant Enterprises has expanded its presence and services in Mexico and along the US-Mexico border. (Photo: Dunavant)

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Dunavant sees opportunities in Mexico amid supply chain disruptions; a Canadian auto supplier expands in Mexico; Schneider Electric announces a new plant in El Paso; and Grovara opens its Mexico headquarters as part of an international strategy.

Dunavant sees opportunities in Mexico amid supply chain disruptions

Dunavant Enterprises is betting big on Mexico as a solution to overstressed global supply chains and record container backlogs at U.S. ports. 

Memphis, Tennessee-based Dunavant recently launched dedicated Mexico cross-border and intra-Mexico operations, offering logistics management solutions with a new set of office locations all along the U.S.-Mexico border — stretching from Brownsville, Texas, through Arizona to Otay Mesa, California.

The company also opened operations at Mexican seaports in Ensenada, Altamira, Veracruz and Manzanillo and offices at airports in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey.

One of Dunavant’s main goals with the expansion is to give shippers an alternative to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where container backlogs have hampered freight movement over the last several months. 

“A lot of companies are pulling away from China and going into the U.S. by increasing their production in Mexico,” said Johnny Araiza, Dunavant’s newly hired vice president of cross-border and Mexico operations. “We’ve also been able to provide customers with a workaround in regards to the port in Long Beach because obviously the congestion is ridiculous right now.”

Dunavant’s cross-border services now include Texas operations in Laredo, El Paso, Eagle Pass, Pharr and Brownsville and facilities in Nogales and Douglas, Arizona, and Calexico, San Diego and Otay Mesa, California.

“We’re one of the few forwarders that can come through a port in Mexico, like the Port of Ensenada, and to transit towards the border and bypass Long Beach, providing a shorter cycle for the customers to be able to get their product from overseas into the U.S.,” Araiza said.

Araiza, who is based in Laredo, said Dunavant’s expansion provides door-to-door service for shippers sending both northbound and southbound freight across the border. 

Dunavant’s Mexico-based operations include services such as trucking, air and ocean freight, cross-docking, warehousing, distribution, brokerage, insurance and consulting.

The company was founded in 1928 by Memphis businessman William B. “Billy” Dunavant Jr. Dunavant flourished in the global cotton trade for more than 50 years. In 2010, the company expanded its logistics model beyond cotton to other industries, including automotive aftermarket products, chemical, food and beverage, paper and packaging, and retail.

Today, Dunavant has 220 employees at locations throughout the U.S., Mexico, Canada and China. One of the company’s largest facilities is in Pasadena, Texas, where Dunavant has 80 employees operating more than 1 million square feet of warehouse space and 150 intermodal trucks.

Dunavant currently averages about 320 weekly cross-border shipments, mainly through Laredo. Araiza said a year or so from now, Dunavant aims to service about 3,000 U.S.-Mexico shipments a week all along the border.

“We do distribution, warehousing, just-in-time pickup along the border, and that’s been heavily focused with automotive customers,” Araiza said. “Automotive in Texas is growing. Look at Tesla in Austin and Toyota in San Antonio. But now we’re also starting to see more with food manufacturers in Mexico, more food and beverage customers sending their goods to the U.S.”

Two of the busiest U.S.-Mexico commercial truck crossings along the border are in Laredo and Otay Mesa, California.

FreightWaves’ Outbound Tender Volume Index — monthly change signals which markets are experiencing prolonged volume growth or contraction — shows both Texas and California have grown over the past month and a half. 

With the spring produce season set to get underway in March, both states should continue to experience elevated freight volumes.

Chart: FreightWaves SONAR (OTVI.TX and OTVI.CA). To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.

Watch: FreightWaves’ shipper update for Feb. 18

Martinrea expands automotive factory in Querétaro, adds 668 jobs 

Martinrea International, a Canada-based automotive parts supplier, recently announced a $155 million expansion of its factory in the central Mexican city of Querétaro.

The expansion, which will take place over a three-year period, will add 668 jobs at the facility. The plant currently employs 953 people.

The investment will focus on the production of aluminum automotive components, mainly engine blocks, transmission cases and suspension bridges, which will be manufactured for clients such as Ford, Honda, BMW, General Motors and electric luxury vehicle startup Lucid.

Martinrea International (TSX: MRE) is based in Vaughn, Ontario, Canada. The company operates 57 locations in nine countries and employs more than 15,000 people.

Schneider Electric to build plants in Texas and Mexico

Schneider Electric recently announced it will open a 160,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in El Paso.

The facility is aimed at increasing production and delivery of electrical products to customers in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

The factory will produce customized low-voltage switchboards that distribute electricity to one or more sources in commercial settings. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, creating 400 jobs.

The El Paso facility will be Schneider Electric’s largest manufacturing operation in the U.S. once completed.

“The supply chain challenges of the past year have demonstrated the importance of increasing our domestic manufacturing capacity as quickly as possible,” Annette Clayton, CEO and president of Schneider Electric North America, said in a statement. “The manufacturing facility in El Paso will allow us to get products into the hands of our distributors and end users more quickly.”

Schneider Electric is investing more than $100 million in El Paso, along with the Mexican city of Tlaxcala, where it plans to build another manufacturing plant. The company is also evaluating existing buildings in Mexico City to renovate into a manufacturing operation. 

Schneider Electric is a France-based multinational company providing energy and automation digital solutions to various industries. The company has 481 locations across 107 countries, employing 128,000 people. 

Grovara opens Mexico headquarters, accelerates LATAM growth

Online B2B marketplace Grovara announced it has opened an office in Mexico City to meet growing demand from Mexican and Latin American retailers for the company’s online marketplace of wholesale U.S. products.

“The growth in demand for natural and organic products in Mexico has created a flurry of interest from leading retailers on our platform that stretches across LATAM,” Eugenia Schlitter, Govara’s sales director, said in a statement.

Grovara increased sales by 75% in 2021, with Mexico and LATAM driving 40% of that growth, according to a release. Grovara has opened up markets like Chile, Colombia, Panama and Peru for American brands like True Citrus and Pnuff.

Founded in 2010, Philadelphia-based Grovara provides American sellers of organic food products with the tools to connect with wholesale international buyers. Grovara facilitates exporting and importing through its platform that provides automation and machine learning-based tools.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]