Manufacturing in Tijuana vs. Mazatlán

Manufacturers considering Mexico as a potential production site will quickly discover that not all locations provide equal manufacturing advantages. Therefore, it is crucial to carefully assess different manufacturing locations in Mexico to ensure they have enough resources, accessibility, and local support to suit their operations.

Tijuana and Mazatlán represent two extreme examples of Mexico's manufacturing centers. Tijuana sits along the U.S.-Mexico border, serving as one of the busiest locations for cross-border traffic, and has long been established as an industrial hub since the maquiladora program began in the 1960s. On the other hand, Mazatlán is relatively young in manufacturing. 

Tijuana and Mazatlan offer manufacturers unique but equally compelling advantages for manufacturing in Mexico. Below, we'd like to explore these opportunities and challenges of producing in both cities to help you make a decision that meets operational needs and strategic goals.

Labor availability in Tijuana vs. Mazatlán

Tijuana's established manufacturing sector is renowned for its access to a technically skilled workforce, thanks to the city's rich industrial history. This history ensures that many workers bring valuable manufacturing experience to their roles, making Tijuana an attractive location for companies in search of skilled labor. However, the benefits of Tijuana's labor market are counterbalanced by notable challenges, particularly in terms of workforce turnover.

In the first quarter of 2023, the turnover rate in Tijuana averaged around 8% per month. Conversations Tetakawi has had with manufacturers in the area reveal that this rate can vary significantly, ranging from 4 to 12% per month, depending on factors such as the industry sector and company size. Industries that are more labor-intensive and operate on lower margins tend to experience higher turnover rates. Conversely, large companies that prioritize becoming employers of choice often enjoy lower turnover rates.

The implications of these turnover rates become particularly salient for companies looking to scale their operations. For instance, a company with a baseline workforce of 100 employees, facing an 8% monthly turnover, would need to hire approximately 96 people over the course of a year just to maintain its current workforce size. If the same company aims to expand its workforce to 150 employees within a year, the challenge intensifies. Not only must the company replace departing employees due to turnover, but it must also fill an additional 50 positions to achieve its growth target. This scenario underscores the need for a significantly enhanced recruitment effort to manage both the natural attrition and the desired expansion, highlighting the substantial investment in human resources required to navigate Tijuana's competitive labor market.

Moreover, Tijuana's labor market is characterized by intense competition for skilled workers, driven by the presence of over 600 maquiladoras and a population of 2,297,216. This competitive environment pushes wages higher and complicates the process of talent acquisition. The situation paints a vivid picture of the challenges companies face in workforce planning and development in Tijuana. It underscores the critical importance of strategic human resource management in achieving operational objectives and effectively scaling operations.

In contrast, Mazatlán presents a different labor market dynamic. With a smaller population of 502,547 and fewer manufacturers, the competition for labor is less intense, offering a more stable environment for workforce development. While companies in Mazatlán may initially need to invest in training to develop the specific technical skills their operations require, the region is well-prepared for this challenge. Significant investments in technical education and targeted training programs by local higher education institutions are laying the groundwork for a reliable manufacturing workforce. This forward-looking approach is designed to mitigate the challenges of talent acquisition and development, ensuring that businesses in Mazatlán can build and maintain the skilled teams they need for long-term success.

Manufacturing wages in Tijuana vs. Mazatlán

After exploring labor market dynamics, examining how these factors influence manufacturing wages in Tijuana and Mazatlán is crucial, further impacting operational costs and strategic business decisions.

In Tijuana, the competitive landscape for skilled labor, compounded by a high monthly turnover rate of approximately 8%, exerts upward pressure on wages. Businesses operating in this bustling manufacturing hub find themselves in a challenging position: to attract and retain the skilled workforce necessary for maintaining and scaling operations, they must offer wages significantly above the minimum. As of January 2024, the minimum daily wage in Mexico's northern border economic free zone, including Tijuana, is set at a premium compared to the rest of the country. For unskilled labor in Tijuana, fully fringed wages can range from $4.50 to $5.30 per hour, reflecting the city's competitive and costly labor market.

Mazatlán, with its smaller population and fewer manufacturers, presents a contrasting scenario. The reduced competition for labor not only stabilizes the workforce but also moderates wage expectations. Here, manufacturers have the opportunity to offer wages that are competitive within the region yet more cost-effective than in Tijuana. Unskilled labor in Mazatlán, fully fringed, ranges from $2.57 to $3.47 per hour. This wage differential, coupled with Mazatlán's lower cost of living—more than 20% lower than Tijuana's—makes it an attractive option for businesses looking to optimize labor costs while still developing a skilled and reliable workforce through targeted training programs and partnerships with local educational institutions.

The stark contrast in manufacturing wages between Tijuana and Mazatlán underscores the importance of a strategic approach to location selection. Companies must weigh the benefits of Tijuana's experienced labor pool against the cost savings and potential for workforce stability offered by Mazatlán. This decision will significantly influence their ability to manage operational costs, scale effectively, and maintain competitive advantage in the global manufacturing landscape.

Industrial real estate in Tijuana vs. Mazatlán

The trend of relocating manufacturing to Mexico has sharply increased demand for industrial real estate, with cities like Tijuana at the forefront of this surge. Tijuana is witnessing a significant investment influx aimed at expanding industrial capacity. Despite these efforts, manufacturers seeking to establish or expand operations in the short term are encountering a saturated market: many of Tijuana's industrial parks are currently at full capacity. This heightened demand has led to a notable increase in leasing rates, with real estate companies reporting a 14% rise in 2023, elevating rates to over $.75 per square foot per month. Such dynamics highlight the challenges of securing affordable industrial space in Tijuana, not to mention the extended lead times for new builds, which are now approaching eight months due to the high demand.

In contrast, Mazatlán presents a different landscape for industrial real estate development. The city is experiencing growth in this sector, with several new industrial parks coming online. Among these is Tetakawi’s Mazatlán Manufacturing Community, a 98-acre development offering configurable Class A industrial spaces and amenities designed to enhance worker retention and site security. Importantly, Mazatlán offers more competitive lease rates, around $.60 per square foot per month for Class A industrial space. Additionally, the lead times for new constructions in Tetakawi's manufacturing community are shorter, typically ranging from 5 to 6 months, providing a more agile option for businesses looking to establish or expand their manufacturing footprint quickly.

The comparison between Tijuana and Mazatlán underscores a pivotal choice for manufacturers. While Tijuana's proximity to the U.S. border and established industrial ecosystem offer certain advantages, the current market conditions pose significant challenges in terms of space availability and cost. Mazatlán, on the other hand, emerges as a viable alternative, offering not only more favorable lease rates but also quicker turnaround times for new constructions, positioning it as an attractive destination for manufacturing operations considering expansion in Mexico.

Exporting to Central and Northeastern U.S. from Tijuana vs. Mazatlan

When evaluating the optimal route for exporting goods to the central and northeastern United States, manufacturers must consider not only the distance and directness of routes but also the connectivity to domestic industrial clusters that are critical to their supply chains. Mazatlán emerges as a strategically advantageous location in this analysis, offering distinct benefits over Tijuana for reaching these U.S. regions.

Proximity to Laredo for U.S. Market Access: Mazatlán's approximately 720 miles distance to the Laredo, Texas border crossing presents a compelling case for manufacturers targeting the central and northeastern U.S. markets. The Laredo crossing is one of the busiest commercial ports of entry, serving as a major conduit for goods entering the U.S. from Mexico. The relatively shorter distance from Mazatlán to Laredo, compared to Tijuana's approximately 1,350 miles, suggests that exports from Mazatlán could reach central and eastern U.S. destinations more efficiently, bypassing the congested border areas and directly accessing the U.S. interstate system that leads to these regions.

Enhanced Connectivity to Mexican Industrial Clusters: Mazatlán's strategic position also offers superior connectivity to several of Mexico's key industrial clusters, including those in Sonora, Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Saltillo, and Querétaro. These regions are powerhouses for various sectors, including automotive, aerospace, and electronics, providing essential components and materials for manufacturing operations. Mazatlán's road and rail links to these clusters facilitate the efficient movement of goods within Mexico, ensuring that manufacturers can easily source inputs and assemble products for export. This domestic connectivity enhances Mazatlán's role as a central hub in Mexico's manufacturing and export landscape.

Infrastructure Investments: The ongoing investments in Mazatlán's port and rail infrastructure further bolster its position as a key export hub. These enhancements are designed to streamline logistics operations, reduce transit times, and increase the reliability of supply chains. For manufacturers, this means improved access to both domestic and international markets, reinforcing Mazatlán's advantage for efficiently reaching the U.S.

FAQ: How should I evaluate manufacturing in Tijuana vs. Mazatlán?

Selecting the right manufacturing location in Mexico requires a nuanced comparison between Tijuana and Mazatlán. Each offers unique benefits tailored to different operational needs. The steps below will help you navigate this decision, focusing on aligning your priorities with the specific advantages of each location.

  1. Identify Your Key Priorities: Determine what is most critical for your manufacturing operations. Is it proximity to the U.S. border, access to specific markets, cost of labor, or availability of skilled workers? Your priorities will guide your decision-making process.

  2. Consider the Workforce: Evaluate the availability of technically skilled labor in both locations. Tijuana has a well-established base of workers skilled in various manufacturing sectors due to its longer history in the industry. Mazatlán, while newer to the scene, is rapidly developing its workforce capabilities through targeted training programs.

  3. Analyze Logistics and Supply Chain Needs: Look at your supply chain and logistics requirements. Tijuana offers unparalleled access to U.S. markets via land, making it ideal for operations requiring frequent cross-border movement. Mazatlán's port facilities provide strong logistics for importing raw materials and exporting to different markets, with a strategic position for access to central and eastern U.S. markets via the Laredo border crossing.

  4. Review Real Estate Options and Costs: Assess the availability and cost of industrial real estate. Tijuana's booming manufacturing sector has led to higher demand and costs for industrial space. Mazatlán, with its growing infrastructure, offers competitive options for businesses looking to expand.

  5. Evaluate Infrastructure and Investment: Consider the current and planned infrastructure investments in both cities. Infrastructure developments can significantly impact your operation's efficiency and scalability.

  6. Consult with Experts: Engage with shelter service providers like Tetakawi, who have in-depth knowledge of local markets and can offer tailored advice based on your specific needs.


As our comprehensive analysis indicates, making an informed decision between Tijuana and Mazatlán for your manufacturing operations hinges on aligning with your strategic priorities. Whether it's scalability, access to a skilled workforce, or logistical advantages that top your list, understanding the nuanced differences between these locations is key.

  • Workforce and Wages: The wage differential is significant, with Tijuana's established manufacturing sector pushing wages for unskilled labor to $4.50 - $5.30 per hour. In comparison, Mazatlán's wages for similar labor range from $2.57 to $3.47 per hour. This represents a cost saving of approximately 35% to 43% in labor expenses in Mazatlán compared to Tijuana, offering a substantial economic advantage for labor-intensive operations.

  • Real Estate Costs: The industrial real estate market in Tijuana has seen leasing rates increase to over $.75 per square foot per month in 2024, a reflection of high demand. Mazatlán, with its growing industrial infrastructure, offers more competitive rates at around $.60 per square foot per month for Class A industrial space. This equates to a roughly 20% lower cost in Mazatlán for real estate, providing a cost-effective solution for businesses looking to expand their footprint.

Identifying a manufacturing location that meets your specific needs is crucial. This is where the expertise of a shelter service provider like Tetakawi becomes invaluable. With decades of experience in facilitating manufacturers' successful entry into Mexico, Tetakawi offers deep insights into the local market dynamics. We support companies throughout their exploration process, from conducting detailed site analyses to assisting with startup and ongoing operational support. If you aim to establish a successful manufacturing presence in Mexico, Tetakawi is equipped to guide you every step of the way. Reach out to us today to discover how we can help you navigate the complexities of setting up your operation in Mexico, ensuring your company's long-term success.

ebook: choose a shelter service provider in Mexico



Thinking about manufacturing in Mexico? Download this ebook and start moving your due diligence forward.

Download Now

Start Your Mexico Strategy Today

Talk to a Tetakawi expert to learn how your company can succeed in Mexico.

Contact Us

Recent Posts

Get The Tetakawi Insights Newsletter

Sign up and stay informed with tips, updates, and best practices for manufacturing in Mexico.

How much does it cost to manufacture in Mexico? Join us at our cost workshop in Chicago to find out! -> Register Now!