Private interests are launching a new border resource guide in a bid to get companies to do more business with firms in Arizona and Sonora.
Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said Friday there may be a lack of knowledge of what products and services are available in the two-state region. The result, he said, has been missed opportunities.
“There really is no need to wait for parts to come from the Midwest or the East Coast when those same parts can come from Tucson, Phoenix, Mesa or Nogales,” he said.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton called the guide “a necessary thing for our future, which is to build the strongest trade relationships we can with businesses and people of Mexico.”
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith agreed.
“Arizona's economic future is, in many ways, tied to Mexico,” he said.
Smith conceded there have been “hiccups” in relations between Arizona and its southern neighbor. That flared up most visibly with the decision of state lawmakers and Gov. Jan Brewer to sign legislation in 2010 seen as targeting Hispanics in Arizona's bid to wage its own fight against illegal immigration.
“We don't need to dwell on those because we're talking about the future,” Smith said. “The fact is that we are tied very closely historically, culturally and, yes, economically.”
The guide, being organized by the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is designed to be a single point for those looking for products and services. Listing in the guide will be free, with firms able to list themselves at “www.arizona-sonora.com.” Lea Marquez Peterson, the chamber's president, said copies will probably sell in the $50 to $60 range.
The plan also has the backing of the mayors of both Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora. Both communities stand to gain from any additional cross-border trade.
Rothschild acknowledged that a guide, by itself, does not remove all the hurdles. One is getting materials across the border.
He pointed out that the federal government is completing a $184 million expansion project at the Mariposa port of entry to help alleviate the “bottleneck,” creating up to 20 lanes for traffic. But that, by itself, does not guarantee faster transit.
One is staffing, with more lanes being meaningless if there are not customs and border officers to inspect the vehicles.
“That is a congressional issue, that is a federal issue,” Rothschild said. He said all the mayors have reached out to the Obama administration and the congressional delegation in a bid for staffing dollars.
The other is the fact that once the truck traffic clears the port of entry — and its 20 lanes — it is funneled onto State Route 189 which has just two lanes. That project is the responsibility of the Arizona Department of Transportation.
“There is an urgency to getting those two things done,” Rothschild said. “But I think we can.”
Smith, echoing a theme from his just-announced gubernatorial bid, said he believes the funds for the road-widening project will become available once everyone involved makes that a priority.