The border region of Arizona receives non-stop attention by our national media. However, the discussions occurring at our border town of Nogales have a very different tone – one of collaboration and problem-solving. The Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority met last week for their monthly meeting led by Chairman Guillermo Valencia. The Port Authority is an important stakeholder in the State of Arizona as it has been instrumental in gathering public and private leaders together to discuss the challenges and solutions at our southernmost border.
Participants regularly include U.S Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), the Nogales Economic Development Foundation, Index – the Maquiladora Association, the Customs House Brokers, the City of Nogales, Santa Cruz County, the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas and the Mexican Consulate. The group discussed major issues facing the region:
Impact of the Government Shutdown:
Several community members praised Port Director Mike Humphries for his leadership during the recent government shutdown. During the shutdown it was “businesses as usual” at both ports of entry in Nogales; which is in sharp contrast to what the national media highlighted to the nation during the shutdown.
Over the last two years, the Nogales community has advocated heavily for investment by the state and the federal government on SR189 -the road just north of the Mariposa Port of entry. The community was successful in soliciting funding with strong support from Governor Ducey and the State Legislature. The construction timeline for SR189 and the project design will begin in June and once completed will go far to relieve the congestion for commercial trucks.
Impact of AMLO:
INDEX, the Maquiladora association, spoke about the impact of the new Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) presidential administration in Mexico. The U.S national media has not covered much about the impact of the new administration on Mexican businesses but instead focused on the AMLO relationship with President Trump and the debate surrounding the U.S Mexico Canada Agreement. Since the election approximately 90 days ago, business processes had changed radically. The new administration has embraced unionizing businesses and is rewriting the national labor laws. Many of the campaign promises had not yet been met. The representatives spoke about the negative impact this uncertainty was placing on investment in Mexico.
Port Authority Chairman sent a letter to the Commissioner of U.S Customs and Border Protection requesting investment in the primary tourism gateway in Nogales – the DeConcini crossing; the need for expanding the Sentri program to the Mariposa Port of entry; and their support of a pilot program to test the deployment of Non-Intrusive Inspection technology. Sentri is loosely defined as a federal program that citizens can pay for to allow them to participate in a “fast lane” at the border.
It is clear that longstanding relationships in this border community between public and private entities have been beneficial to seeking solutions for the betterment of the region. Now these relationships just need national media attention to change the political dialogue.
The next Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority meeting will occur on Thursday, March 28th at 10am at the Santa Cruz Provisional Community College at 2021 N. Grande Ave in Nogales, AZ.
Lea Marquez Peterson, MBA is President of the Marquez Peterson Group, a public affairs firm located in Tucson.