The relaxed attitude of Mexico's business community belies the huge opportunities here – and the dangers of the local delicacy
Day two in Mexico City and I am learning as much about the business culture out here as I am about construction. When I arrived 10 minutes late for a meeting yesterday, I apologised – as any true Brit would. The response was an incredulous laugh followed by: “Late? Three hours is late in Mexico. No, not turning up at all is late in Mexico. You English are so funny.”
But while the attitude is relaxed, everybody I have met takes the development programme out here very seriously. And the message I'm getting is that a major change in Latin American construction methods after the successful completion of the Torre Mayor skyscraper in 2003 could translate into enticing business opportunities for UK firms.
I visited the building yesterday. It's the tallest in Latin America and the most expensive to rent in Mexico City – US$30 per square metre. Despite the high costs it has a 99% occupancy rate, as global firms like Deliotte, Bovis Lend Lease and Apple are all happy to pay top dollar.
The Torre Mayor skyscraper is sleek and efficient. Its innovative structure means it can withstand earthquakes - there is at least one small one a day here
And you can see why. The building is sleek and efficient. Despite an innovative structure that means it can withstand earthquakes – there is at least one small one a day here – it offers the kind of services that are unprecedented here: lifts that travel 6m per second, a restaurant on the 52nd floor with stunning views, and a shopping centre under the office space designed to provide anything the workers may need throughout the day.
I saw a drycleaner, a travel agent, banks, three coffee shops, a jewellery shop, a pharmacy and at least a dozen restaurants, including a Domino's Pizza takeaway and a sushi bar (complete with beggar trying to sell out-of-date chocolate).
So why is this good news for British construction? Well, Torre Mayor became the first building in Mexico City to be built following UK and US standard heath and safety codes and construction methods. These codes are now being rolled out to all new major developments in the city. The upshot looks likely to be an explosion of opportunities for UK firms here in the next three to five years, as they can offer Latin America help in getting to grips with new ways of procuring and building.
UK and US safety codes are now being rolled out to all new major developments and the upshot looks likely to be an explosion of opportunities for UK firms
There isn't much native experience of high-rise construction here either, so this is another area where British expertise could be gratefully received.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in Mexico – I'll be reporting on further opportunities for UK firms to win work soon.
The only other thing to report for now though, is that my experience with the local delicacy – cactus leaf and chilli sauce – is one I will not be repeating without a much larger glass of water on standby!
I have done a quick video interview with Francisco Aceves, the Torre Mayor's director of construction. He discusses the building's helipad and where he explains a bit more about the structure that has kick-started such a huge change in Latin American development.