SkyBridge Arizona ushers in new era in cross-border commerce

When Governor Doug Ducey in January announced the launch of SkyBridge Arizona – a $230 million, 360-acre commercial development at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport – a whole new spirit of cross-border cooperation arrived with the project, including the promise of tens of thousands of new jobs, increased revenues for area cities, and a business-friendly international freight process to and from neighboring Mexico.

“As we know, Arizona is growing a lot so there’s a potential for e-commerce,” says SkyBridge Arizona CEO Ariel Picker, who spoke with Chamber Business News earlier this month at the annual Arizona-Mexico Commission in Tucson. “Taking this advantage of being able to preclear the product and ship it that day to any airport around the country without having to go through customs in Mexico is a great opportunity.”

At its core, SkyBridge includes a first-of-its-kind joint United States-Mexico Customs inspections facility, which dramatically streamlines the Customs process with Mexico. Freight times that used to take up to 10 days to clear are slashed by up to 80 percent by Customs Pre-Clearance.

Surrounding this joint U.S.-Mexico Customs facility are more than 2 million square feet of warehouse space, nearly 1 million square feet of office space, 900,000 square feet of light industrial and flex space, more than 800,000 square feet of air cargo operations, a 242-bed hotel and 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, and more. The 15-year build-out plan also includes improvements to infrastructure around Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport including water, sewer and power expansion, as well as vital water retention basins for seasonal rains that protect city and county assets.

Picker estimates that more than 17,000 new direct and indirect jobs will result from SkyBridge. Nearly 10,000 will be employed directly related to SkyBridge, more than 2,400 in construction alone. Additionally, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport expects an initial increase of 2,000 additional cargo flights per year – which climbs to 10,000 by 2036. These additional flights benefit local and state coffers through increased taxes and fees.

SkyBridge follows an air freight trend line that is soaring. Growth of air freight between Arizona and Mexico has grown 30 percent per year, or 180 percent from 2011 to 2015, outpacing all other modes of transport. Air freight trade between Arizona and Mexico currently totals $390 million per year. The state also outpaces all of its Southwest neighbors of California, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas, whose air freight traffic grew by just 10 percent during the same period.

Businesses across many sectors benefit from the SkyBridge project. E-commerce companies, aerospace firms, agricultural concerns, manufacturers, all companies doing business with Mexico and beyond each realize faster, more secure deliveries and less red tape. E-commerce companies expect to take advantage of significant opportunities within Mexico going forward. More than half of Mexico’s population now has access to the Internet, and two out of three Internet users have made purchases online. Mexican consumers made nearly $300 billion e-commerce purchases last year and that number grows annually by 17 percent.

Lorna Romero

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