Castilla-La Mancha was, until recently, known to the outside world as the land of Don Quixote, the magical city of Toledo, and little else. However, the region, situated in the centre of Spain, has a modernised economy built upon strengths in sectors such as the aeronautical industry, renewable energy, agribusiness and logistics.

The aeronautics boom speaks for itself, with major manufacturers such as Airbus, Aernnova, Industria de Turbo Propulsores (ITP), ITH and Hexcel Corporation operating in the region. “We looked at locations such as Madrid, Barcelona and Zaragoza before deciding to build our plant in Castilla-La Mancha,” says Juan Carlos Martínez, CEO of Eurocopter. “We were attracted to this region by various factors, including the support from the local government, the excellent transport system and the proximity to Los Llanos air base in Albacete, and our key customers.”

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Integrated solution

Mr Martínez says Castilla-La Mancha offered an integrated solution, based on objective conditions and significant institutional support. The government of Castilla-La Mancha agreed to promote an extensive research programme specifically adapted to the needs of the company and the aeronautics sector, to be implemented in close co-operation with the regional university. “Albacete, where our production facilities are located, is a crossroads and its airport represents a transport platform,” says Mr Martínez. “We now have a daily flight between Munich, Marseilles and Albacete to enable our directors and staff to visit our three main European centres.”

Albacete, Illescas and Almagro have become the aeronautics triangle of the region. Illescas has manufacturing premises in which EADS-Casa produces part of the Airbus A-380, and the maintenance centre for Tigre helicopters is located in Almagro. Albacete has also attracted ITH, which began operations this year in the city’s Aeronautical Park. The company is engaged in helicopter engines and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MR&O) activities on behalf of its parent company, ITP. ITH carries out ITP’s MR&O work on Rolls-Royce 250, GE CT7 and Pratt & Whitney Canada PW200 series engines. It will also be the assembly and test plant for new production engines for the Spanish fleet of Tigre and NH90 helicopters.

“We decided to invest in Castilla-La Mancha to be close to our civil and defence customers, and from this perspective Albacete is very well positioned with regard to operation centres in Spain,” says ITP director of corporate development Plácido Márquez. “In addition, we found dealing with the regional government very straightforward and it has facilitated relations with local and national authorities. In practical terms, Albacete is not far from our facilities in Madrid, and the infrastructure of Albacete’s Aeronautics and Logistics Park is well planned and suited to our needs,” he adds.

Aernnova president Iñaki López Gandásegui says his company decided to invest in Castilla-La Mancha when it was awarded the contract by Airbus for the design and manufacture of the horizontal stabiliser and elevator of the A350 aircraft. “Our manufacturing facilities for composites are located in Illescas, near Toledo,” he says. “We have invested €60m in the plant, which employs nearly 500 workers. It made good synergy sense for us to be here where other related firms such as Hexcel are located.”

Composites group Hexcel has set up its first carbon fibre plant outside the US in Illesas. The group’s vice-president for operations, Andrea Domenichini, says this location was chosen because of its excellent network of services, strong support and commitment from the local and regional governments and the fact that its major customer, Airbus, is in the region. “The availability of land was also another important consideration, along with a good communications network. The close proximity to other Hexcel locations was also important,” says Mr Domenichini.

 

Scientific hub

Castilla-La Mancha is also emerging as a centre for pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms. Two international firms, Jahhssen-Cilag and Servier, recently inaugurated R&D in facilities in Toledo’s industrial zone. The president of Castilla-La Mancha, José María Barreda, says the regional government has spent €300m on the new Toledo Hospital, which will also offer its facilities for research and innovation in bio-medicine. Angel Díaz, vice-president for R&D at Servier, highlights the importance of the new centre for society. “Now, more than ever, we need to have faith in research and this new facility stands as a testimony to our efforts,” he says.

The agribusiness sector also has huge potential in Castilla-La Mancha. Half of Spain’s vineyards are located in the region and it is the country’s second largest producer of olives; other major crops include saffron, mushrooms and garlic. The region’s €5.5bn annual food and beverage production amounts to 27.7% of the Spanish total. Many Spanish and foreign multinationals have already realised the advantages of operating in the region, among them Schweppes, Campofrío, Damm and Felíx Solís.

Renewable energy is another dynamic sector and Castilla-La Mancha has become Spain’s leading producer. It is also the top region in wind and photovoltaic energy production, and has become a point of reference in Spain and abroad. As of 2007, Castilla-La Mancha had more than 3000 megawatts of wind power and 147MW of installed photovoltaic capacity. Industry leaders such as Acciona, Telefónica, Eiffage, General Electric (GE) and Iberdrola are already operating facilities in the region. GE has wind power assembly facilities, while Acciona and three other companies are producing turbine blades. Ingeteam is a manufacturer of software for the solar power industry and Siliken is engaged in modules assembly. Boeing launched the first piloted fuel-cell powered aircraft in Castilla-La Mancha last year.

The city of Puertollano is rapidly becoming Spain’s ‘energy city’. The Spanish Institute for Concentration of Photovoltaic Systems is promoting worldwide development of photovoltaic technology in the region and the National Centre of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology has also set up a research centre.

Castilla-La Mancha has demonstrated its ability to transform its natural assets into opportunities for future growth, and in renewable energy the government has set the objective of meeting all its consumption requirements through clean energy sources.