Corona boom becoming a job bank

Crossing the U.S.-Mexican border for jobs is in the news on virtually a daily basis. In the case of what is being trumpeted as the world's largest brewery, many of the commuting workers may be coming from the U.S.

The Grupo Modelo facility for brewing Corona beers will be built near Allende in the Mexican state of Coahuila, a short drive from such Texas border communities as Del Rio and Eagle Pass, about 250 miles southwest of Austin, the state capital.

Grupo Modelo brews a line of beers, but Corona is by far the most popular.

Guillermo Berchelman, economic development coordinator for northern Coahuila, said in a media interview that the project is divided into phases, the first of which will complete the basic plant, with a Grupo Modelo investment of $525 million. " ... The total plant, with the additional phases, could easily reach $1.5 billion.”

The water supply for the gigantic new facility will come from a cluster of five springs amidst five small towns southwest of the city of Piedras Negras. Modelo is building the water containment area now. It is expected that the first products will come out in early 2010.

The new facility was deemed necessary because of the continually increasing demand for Corona and Corona Lite despite a global decline in beer sales among all other brands. Grupo Modelo's various brands hold 56% of the Mexican beer market. Anheuser Busch, the American brewing giant based in St. Louis, MO, controls 49 percent of its stock.

In the same interview, Berchelman said, "Corona got caught up with excess demand. People were just buying out whole supplies, so they’re in a real rush. This beer is not popular, it’s very popular in Europe, Asia, the United States, and, of course, in Mexico ... but this product will be primarily for the U.S. market, liberating other plants to satisfy worldwide demand.”

The new facility, including transport staging areas, storage and water containment will cover 897 acres, with 270 of them devoted to the plant itself. An estimated 2,000 workers will construct the project, with about 2,000 jobs to be filled just to operate the first phase of the facility. Eventually, the work force is expected to grow to 8,000 people to handle such non-brewing activities as a glass plant and a cardboard box and container plant.

Initial annual production is expected to be about 264 million gallons, growing to 839 million when all expansion is completed.

In addition to work on the facility, a spillover economic impact will include construction of more rail containers at a 1,500-worker plant to be constructed nearby by Trinity Industries Inc. of Dallas, the largest U.S. producer of rail and tank cars.

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