For U.S.-based industrial players seeking new horizons in lean times, nearby Mexico may present plenty of possibilities. That was the conclusion of a webcast panel produced by CB Richard Ellis Inc. executives last week. Moderated by Raymond Torto, the firm’s global chief economist, the panel also included Guillermo Sepulveda, executive managing director for Mexico; Antonio Trueba, senior vice president of capital markets and investment for Mexico; and Ray Wong, director of research for the Americas.Mexico’s emerging economy admittedly faces formidable challenges, among them credit-card debt that could pose significant problems in the near future and fallout from the global economic crisis. That said, the country’s strengths bode well for its industrial as well as other property sectors. Mexico holds $75 billion in Central Bank reserves that provide a cushion against the global capital markets crisis. It has also avoided the residential mortgage meltdown that plagues the United States. The country is drawing 28.9 percent of all commercial real estate investment overall, second only to the 54.7 percent registered by Brazil.The Mexican government’s commitment to infrastructure also promises new industrial opportunity. A highlight of that investment, a planned $6 billion port in Baja California, would spark local demand for distribution space while creating competition with the space-constrained ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Besides infrastructure expansion, other trends shaping Mexico’s industrial market include the growth of multimodal parks and increasingly technologically sophisticated industries that demand a better-trained workforce. In addition, high oil prices are making the short shipping distance from Mexico to the United States more attractive than ever. As U.S. manufacturers take cost-cutting steps, they may turn to Mexico at the expense of Chinese factories. Market data illustrates the vigor of Mexico’s industrial market. Some areas compare favorably with leading U.S. markets. At midyear, Mexico City’s industrial vacancy rate stood at 6.2 percent, lower than Greater Chicago’s 11.3 percent or even the New York City metropolitan area’s 7.8 percent. And industrial rental rates in Mexico City are $5.91 per square foot, a figure that beats Chicago’s $4.48 per square foot and is within shouting distance of Greater New York City’s $6.87 rate.