Microsoft recently announced a $1.5 million investment in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, to help expand companies in the manufacturing sector on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The investment is part of a Microsoft program called the Bridge Accelerator, which will train 75 existing companies in Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, Texas, over the next three years.
“Microsoft is partnering with local businesses, nonprofits and government agencies to make the El Paso-Juárez region the leader of advanced manufacturing, advanced logics and business services,” Microsoft President Brad Smith blogged recently.
The Bridge Accelerator program includes an early-investment venture capital fund and a digital fabrication lab — the Fab Lab — that helps startups create prototypes of their inventions.
At the end of the program, participants compete during a demo day. The winner receives up to $25,000 in seed funding.
“The program will teach each of the companies how to incorporate new technologies in how they do business to help them expand,” Ricardo Mora, chief executive officer of the Juárez Technology Hub (T-Hub), said in an interview with Fox News in El Paso.
T-Hub, based in El Paso, is a binational business incubator that helped launch the program with Microsoft over the summer with 10 small and medium-size companies – five from El Paso and five from Ciudad Juárez.
Companies such as El Paso-based Global Containers & Custom Packaging Inc., which creates packaging for the automotive, electronics, food and medical industries, and PIMA, an industrial automation solutions company, participated in the Bridge Accelerator pilot program.
By the time the pilot program ended on July 31, the 10 participating businesses had received a total of 52 new purchase orders worth $1.48 million. An additional 36 purchase orders are pending, according to Microsoft.
“Thirty-three new jobs have already been created in the region. And two investments totaling $250,000 have been committed, with four more investments pending,” Smith said.
The success of the program prompted Microsoft to extend it for another three years. It will now include 12 companies training twice a year through 2022.
“The aim is to help companies in this area get part of the $39 billion worth of supplies going to the manufacturing industry in the El Paso-Juarez area, of which only 2% is sourced from this region,” Mora said.
Smith added that Microsoft was first attracted to El Paso in 2017, when Microsoft launched an initiative called TechSpark to create economic opportunities along the U.S.-Mexico border through modern software and cloud services.
“This active border crossing alone accounts for 12% of total U.S. trade with Mexico, close to $45 billion per year,” Smith said. “Businesses in El Paso and Juárez exchange goods and services back and forth, creating products commonly made in the Mexican city with American components using advanced manufacturing technologies.”