An Economy Built on International Trade: Nogales Roadshow

Nogales was the most recent stop on the Accelerate Arizona statewide tour. We were joined by Representative Rick Gray, Senator Andrea Dalessandro, Representative John Allen, Representative Chris Ackerley, Representative Noel Campbell, Representative Rosanna Gabaldon, Nogales Mayor John Doyle, and Santa Cruz County Supervisor Manuel Ruiz as well as representatives from the Mexican Consul, Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona Department of Transportation, Arizona-Mexico Commission, Greater Nogales-Santa Cruz County Port Authority, Nogales Chamber of Commerce, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Index Nogales (Mexican Maquiladoras and Manufacturing Assoc.) and several local businesses. Participants in the Nogales Roadshow took a tour of the Highway 189 alignment from the Mariposa Port of Entry to Interstate 19, the Divine Flavor Warehouse, the Rio Rico commercial area, SunFed Warehouse and downtown Nogales.

A highlight of the roadshow was the public town hall where participants engaged in a robust conversation about the role transportation infrastructure plays in building an export-based economy. The Arizona Department of Transportation provided a compelling presentation on Key Commerce Corridors, which are routes connecting Arizona to global markets. These include Interstates 10, 8, 19, 40 and the forthcoming Interstate 11. Arizona’s strategic position in the Southwest puts us within a one day drive of 16 million consumers in Southern California, 13 million in central Texas and 10 million in northwestern Mexico.  Our position also provides ready access to Canadian markets via I-15 through Nevada and China via the Port of Long Beach.

Arizona’s exports to the world reached $21.1 billion in 2014. Our state enjoys a healthy trade surplus with several key trading partners, including Mexico. International trade brings new money into our economy, and the jobs connected to trade generally pay above the median wage.

This is exciting news, but challenges remain. Mariposa is the largest port of entry for Mexican produce, handling 35% of all deliveries in the U.S. A 2013 analysis by the University of Arizona found that the fresh produce industry accounts for $303.4 million in business in Santa Cruz County. This is attributed to shipping, warehousing, distribution, freight forwarding, customs brokerage and related logistics activities. An astounding 22% of all jobs in Santa Cruz County are directly or indirectly related to this industry! Unfortunately, State Route 189, which connects the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales to I-19 is in serious need of improvements. The Ruby Road interchange which provides access to produce warehouses north of Nogales is struggling with traffic delays that affect delivery times for trucks. ADOT currently has only a fraction of the funds required to perform the necessary upgrades.

Competition is fierce. Texas and California are not sitting idly by. The State of Sinaloa in Mexico is actively promoting two new trade corridors, one from Mazatlán to Brownsville, Texas and another from Topolobampo to El Paso, Texas. Investing in further upgrades to the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales and making improvements to the highway and interchange infrastructure that support this port are essential to ensuring that Arizona continues to receive the many economic benefits of international trade.

This week we are heading to Casa Grande.

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