Brushing aside concerns about violence in Mexico, IBM today opened its first IBM innovation center in Mexico City.

Big Blue hopes the center will become a magnet for local start-ups, venture capitalists, developers and academics who will focus on the intersection of technology and industries such as banking, communications, healthcare, retail and government.

IBM opens the centers in places where it wants to spur innovation and then eventually reap the benefits from a better business climate. It’s an example of planting seeds in a place that can become a fertile producer over time.

But the headlines from Mexico in the past couple of years have been grim. Outright warfare between the government, police and drug lords has claimed thousands of lives. IBM’s move into Mexico seems like it’s going against the grain, since businesses tend to move into new regions where stable commerce is possible. IBM may feel like the news reports about the violence are exaggerated, given the huge size of the country and isolated nature of some of the violence. Perhaps IBM is also hoping to promote stability with this move, much like the recent venture fund formed to invest in tech companies in Palestinian territories in the West Bank. It all gets back to the notion that entrepreneurship is about taking risks.

The Mexico center is the 39th of IBM’s centers in 32 countries, including Brazil, Vietnam, Philippines and South Africa — all of which opened in the past couple of years. IBM will offer Mexican start-ups free IBM software, research help, and technical and business expertise via IBM’s Global Entrepreneur initiative, which has helped launch more than 500 businesses worldwide. Hugo Santana, general manager of IBM Mexico, says that a stronger Mexican technology community will be prepared to compete on a global stage.

Industry analyst firm BMI predicts information technology spending in Mexico will grow 11 percent in 2011 to $13.6 billion. This growth is being spurred by government services, infrastructure projects, and growing interest in cloud computing across many industries. Roughly 80 percent of the $2.5 billion worth of software sold in Mexico is imported. IBM has actually done business in Mexico for the past 84 years.

IBM is helping to develop curricula at local educational institutions such as Tecnológico de Monterrey, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and Instituto Politecnico Nacional. IBM says more than 26,000 unique Mexican information technology professionals visited IBM’s developerWorks site in 2010. In the past two years, more than 200 new Mexican companies have become IBM business partners. Today, IBM says there are more than 800 independent software vendors, integrators, and resellers in Mexico.

In 2010, IBM’s innovation centers assisted more than 24,000 business partners.