MEXICALI, MEXICO-A visionary plan to create a 15-square mile technology manufacturing complex here on the Baja peninsula has taken a giant step forward upon news of financial backing by ING Real Estate. The deep-pocketed Dutch investment group is teaming with San Diego-based Silicon Border Development to construct and operate the ambitious initiative, one expected to employ upwards of 50,000 Mexican and US workers in so-called “clean” technologies.

“This is a really big milestone for us to have ING’s commitment,” SBD spokesman tells ING will finance land acquisition for 4,500 acres of virgin land at the site, which is just across the California border, and provide initial capital for infrastructure work expected to approach $200 million, with a total cost of $1 billion.

The 20-year plan, foreseen as 10,000 acres of development over several phases, will require roads, utilities, water treatment plants and state-of-the-art buildings to attract technology related manufacturing. Modeled after similar master-planned parks in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan, the spokesman explains the concept was launched by officials in the semi-conductor industry tired of seeing their end product built overseas.

In a release announcing the partnership, SBD chairman D.J. Hill says his firm “has joined with a number of public and private Mexican entities and now with ING to create an environment that competes head-on with the best locations in Asia in terms of operating cost, human capital development and factory infrastructure.”

ING officials declined to discuss the plan directly when contacted by, but managing director James Hendricks issued a statement declaring the firm’s belief in Mexico going forward. “We see tremendous opportunity in Mexico’s commercial real estate sector,” Hendricks says, noting that his firm has been making investments there “and will continue to do so.” Sale-leaseback services for corporate companies will be among the lines of business anticipated from Silicon Border.

Low land costs will allow Silicon Border to vie for tenants, the spokesman says, whose company conducted an extensive search of alternative locations in North America prior to the Mexicali selection.

Conceived in 2001, the plan was delayed due to such factors as the terrorist attacks, SBD’s continental search, due diligence of the site and a spate of unrest in Mexico’s presidential election, but the spokesman says the roadblocks appear to be behind the project. Besides providing work for young Mexican engineers and US research specialists, Silicon Border is seen as a brand-new mixed-use enclave complete with athletic facilities, restaurants, retail and other comforts for its inhabitants. “It certainly doesn’t lack for magnitude,” concurs the spokesman, who says a groundbreaking is expected within the next few months.

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