Southern Arizona should seize trade opportunities with Mexico

BY: Joseph Treviño
February 21, 2014

Port of Guaymas
The expanding Port of Guaymas will receive shipments of coal, grain, cars and more. Courtesy of Port of Guaymas

Mexico is fast becoming an international business player, and Southern Arizona’s borderlands should be ready to pounce on those economic opportunities, a group of business leaders said Thursday.

Arturo Garino, the mayor of Nogales, Ariz., said some misperceptions about Mexico and the border have managed to cloud the truth: that Mexico is finally emerging as a true economic powerhouse that already has surpassed South Korea and could be Southern Arizona’s best economic hope.

“Everybody north of Nogales looks at Nogales and the border region not as a security threat; they are looking at that area as an economic boost,” Garino said during a luncheon held Thursday by Arizona Forward at the Hilton East Tucson, in a conference room full of business people.

On the Mexican side is the Port of Guaymas, countless Mexican business trucks and Mexico’s new economy, Garino said. He added that Southern Arizona has the Sun Corridor, the Port of Tucson and the revamped Mariposa Port of Entry, which will soon be ready to streamline all the exports from Mexico, creating jobs and pumping money from Nogales to Tucson.

Pedro Valenzuela, director of Import-Export Operations for Offshore Group, said that unlike Arizona, Texas and California wasted no time in capitalizing on Mexico’s growth. He added that in 2012, Texas’ import and export trade with Mexico totaled $194 billion, compared with just $13 billion for Arizona.

Valenzuela, who worked in southern Texas for 10 years before moving to Tucson, said Southern Arizona is at about the same stage where McAllen, Texas, was back then: leery of its violence-worn southern Mexican neighbor, the town of Reynosa in Tamaulipas.

But both neighbor towns decided to set aside their differences, cleaned up and joined forces — much like Southern Arizona and Sonora are beginning to do now — and become business partners, he added.

Now, much of Reynosa’s middle-class trading partners live on the U.S. side, where they pump up McAllen’s economy, Valenzuela said. Both sides have worked and thrived together, he added.

“There is no reason why this region, Nogales and Tucson, cannot have the development that we have seen in McAllen, Laredo and the South Texas region,” Valenzuela said.

Lea Márquez-Peterson, president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which works with businesses on both sides of the border, said the trading venture and working with Sonoran and Mexican companies also benefits small businesses in Tucson.

John Moffatt, director of strategic planning for Pima County, said he thought Thursday’s panel was a great way to bring Mexico’s and Southern Arizona’s business minds together. He lauded an upcoming directory of Arizona and Sonoran businesses, a joint project by the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Daily Star, as a good tool.

Nogales, Ariz., has always been the entryway where most of the produce comes through, Garino said.

But with its enviable geographic location, Southern Arizona could well become a hub for economic trade and thus an international player.

“We should embrace this opportunity and embrace Mexico,” he said. “We don’t have a dark cloud anymore. There is actually a rainbow that comes across from Nogales, Sonora, to Nogales, Arizona.”

Contact Joseph Treviño at 807-8029 or [email protected]

Editor’s Note: C&W | PICOR is licensed to transact real estate in the State of Sonora, Mexico. Click here for more information on our services in the border region.

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