Viktor Mizo says “Hey, come build a plant in sunny Macedonia”

Viktor Mizo, CEO of the Directorate for Technological Industrial Development Zones,  is all smiles and speaks fluent English as he explains why the Republic of Macedonia would be an excellent spot to build an auto parts plant.

Mizo can rattle off his country’s virtues,  faster than you can take his business card, — low wages averaging about 375 euros a month, 97 percent literacy, universal English-language instruction and business incentives that European Union members “just can’t give anymore” .

As CEO of the Directorate for Technological Industrial Development Zones, Mizo and three staffers were at the Automotive News World Congress this week seeking investment. Macedonia is serious about the automotive industry.

In 2006  Automotive News Europe started receiving calls from the country’s minister of investment urging them to visit him in Skopje. Then he would admit that no auto plants had opened yet.

Seven years later, Macedonia has 50 parts plants, including one owed by Johnson Controls, and 2,500 auto jobs — and Mizo has a directorate, staff and a travel budget.

It wasn’t Mizo’s considerable charm that held attention, but a sense of déjà vu as he listed Macedonia’s advantages and gave one-sentence dismissals of rival countries.

Mizo keeps it punchy when asked about this rivals.

“Now Czech wages are too high to be a low-cost country.”

“Wages are low in Moldova, but it has no middle managers so for a 1,500-worker plant you must hire 25 ex-pats.”

“Tunisia is too politically unstable.”

“Morocco can supply Spain and Portugal, but for central Europe it’s too far west.”

Forget the arguments. Here’s my take.

Just nine years after the EU expanded eastward, the new EU is developing a strong middle class, and the low-wage auto-parts frontier has shifted to eastern Europe and north Africa.

The same powerful economic forces of auto manufacturing that helped create the developed world keep spreading. If you look closely, you can watch the nation-building influence of the auto industry at work, even as far afield as Macedonia.