CASABLANCA, Morocco (AP) -- The multinational energy company Eaton broke ground Monday on a new $12 million electronics plant in Morocco that could signal increased foreign investment for this North African country.
Bulldozers began work on the factory, which will build circuit breakers and other telecom equipment, in a new industrial park near Casablanca's airport. To be completed in March, it will employ 500 people — and could double in size if profitable.
Industry Minister Hafid Alamy, who presided at the ceremony, described it as a part of Morocco's strategy to attract foreign investment and create manufacturing clusters to boost employment. Facing a jobless rate of nearly 10 percent — and double that for the young and educated — Morocco's government is struggling to create new jobs in a country of 32 million people where traditionally most people worked in agriculture.
Lacking the hydrocarbon resources of its neighbors, Morocco is increasingly looking to build its industry with foreign investors.
Frank Campbell, the president of Eaton's electronics sector, cited Morocco's proximity to European and African markets and stability in the midst of the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings across the region.
"Here, over a long period of time, it's been predictable and stable — and those words are good for folks like us that make investments," he told The Associated Press. "We don't build very many brand new greenfield sites in a year, so the fact that we are doing one in Morocco is significant for the company."
Eaton, which does $22 billion year in business and employs 101,000 people around the world, specializes in transport, aeronautics and electronics.
The strategy has borne fruit with an announcement in September by Canadian aeronautics company Bombardier to build a $200 million factory in the same Casablanca industrial park, and a new Renault automotive factory in Tangiers.