For Bob Cook, creating jobs in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is one of the few ways to put an end to the violence.
An American businessman, Cook sells the murder-plagued city as the place for global businesses to set up shop. In an area where residents routinely see streets covered in blood, Cook sees green from potential deals, but it’s a tough sell.
Cook, 50, has operated intermittently in El Paso, Texas, just across the border from Ciudad Juarez since 1985. He loves the town and embraces its sister city to the south.
When Cook refers to Ciudad Juarez, it’s disarming to hear him — a fair-complexioned fellow with red hair — pronounce the city’s name with a fluent Spanish accent.
The Texan cares about Juarez. He’s dedicating his professional life to persuading big businesses, some of them American, to move to Juarez or at least open facilities there. His private, non-profit company, REDCo, (for El Paso Regional Economic Development Corporation), opened in June 2004 to help draw business to the region shared by the cross-border cities.
“I think it’s rational for someone to look at the headlines and be fearful of investing anywhere in Mexico right now,” Cook said in a phone interview. “But it’s not my job to convince them to overcome their fears. My job is to show that you can operate [in Juarez] without incident…or without serious incident.”
While the chaos and violence of a war between drug cartels engulfs the city, Cook said the manufacturing industry in Juarez, which produces an array of products including automotive parts, medical supplies and electrical products such as light switches, goes largely unaffected.
As the focal point for Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s war on organized crime, Ciudad Juarez has had the misfortune of redefining urban violence. In 2009, more than 2,600 people were killed. This year, some local reports have it as high as 810, just through the first four months of the year.
But in the last two years, there was only one reported homicide in Juarez’s desgination industrial areas, according to statistics released by the Chihuahua State Police.