United Copper Industries, a wire and cable manufacturer, opened operations in late March in Denton, Texas, becoming the first Mexican company to open a manufacturing plant in the U.S. market without the help of a U.S. partner or acquirer.

United Copper Industries, a subsidiary of Mexican conglomerate Industrias Unidas S.A. de C.V. (IUSA), Mexico City, supplies NM-B and THHN copper building wire to the U.S. residential and non-residential construction market. Along with wire and cable, IUSA of Mexico City manufactures several electrical and nonelectrical products, including copper tubing, brass rod, fluid valves, regulators, controls and lighting devices, said Alejo Peralta Teran, president of United Copper Industries.

Since United Copper Industries began selling to the U.S. market in 1995, sales have grown to $47 million in 1998, Peralta says. The company decided to open a facility inTexas because of growing demand in the U.S. for its products, Peralta said. "The product that we sell in the U.S. is not used in Mexico," Peralta says. "Instead of increasing production in Mexico, we thought it would be better to be closer to the market."

The new Denton facility is a 373,000-sq-ft, $35-million integrated manufacturing plant, national distribution center and corporate office that employs 250 people.

Peralta calls the Denton plant a sign that trade under NAFTA is flowing across the border in both directions. "Not only is NAFTA creating jobs in Mexico with American investments, it's also developing good employment opportunities in Texas with our own Mexican investments." About 26 independent reps throughout the country represent the United Copper lines. Reps who have worked with United Copper said they have been impressed with its growth. "I think that they are getting to be very well-known and the reason for it is their competitive pricing, quality product and service beyond your expectations," says Howard Butcher, a United Copper rep and chief executive officer of George E. Anderson Co., Dallas. Because of its business ethics and fast growth, Butcher says the wire and cable producer is a welcome addition to today's marketplace.

All of the success in the American market has not come without battles. Peralta said that in his first days in the U.S. a Texas environmental group engaged the company in a legal battle over the plant's emissions. Thus, the Peralta family, said to be one of the wealthiest families in Mexico, learned quickly about American environmental activism. "I don't take it personally," Peralta told The Dallas Morning News. "Human beings all think differently and more people in Denton are supporting us rather than against us."