Last year, Maricopa County saw the largest population increase of any county in the United States, adding another 81,244 residents to its desert clutches. That makes eight straight years of population gains, according to the Census Bureau. This impressive bump doesn’t account for the temporary residents who make up a hefty amount of the county’s population part of the year. We’re referring to winter visitors, including those from Canada who come down every year for warmer weather and leisurely living away from the chilling snow and biting cold.
While those residents are considered temporary, some other Canadians have found a permanent residence here in the state: big businesses.
According to Glenn Williamson, founder and CEO of the Canada Arizona Business Council, Canada’s roots are starting to take hold and run deep here in Arizona. Currently, there are more than 400 Canadian businesses that operate out of our state, including VIQ Solutions, an artificial intelligence-based voice tech company that just recently set up its HQ here in Arizona.
Nearly 150,000 Arizona jobs are dependent on trade and investment with Canada as a result of the decades-old business relationship. Also, around 150 Arizona-based companies have expanded their international operations in Canada.
Business between Arizona and Canada comes in at around $4.4 billion in bilateral trade, but Williamson wants to see that number rise to $8 billion within the next three years, with a focus on opportunities in the services and aerospace sectors.
Canadian aerospace manufacturing company Bombardier, based in Montreal, currently operates a one million square foot facility in Tucson, an area of opportunity for businesses in an industry that continues to rise and bring jobs to a ready-made workforce in the region. Data shows that Arizona is surging in the cross-section of aerospace and manufacturing, boasting 1,200 aerospace and defense companies, which makes for an enticing opportunity for Canadian companies in these industries to strike while the iron’s hot.
“Canada and the United States have a massively integrated economy and Arizona is becoming more involved in this, which is why we are seeing not just new Canadian activity in Arizona but also Canadian activity being relocated here from the other 49 states,” Williamson said.
Williamson agrees that when it comes to news surrounding international business with our North American neighbors, most of the news is geared toward Mexico, especially with the wait-and-see scenario with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
“Even with the uncertainty of the USMCA, Canadian companies are making broader decisions to set up here in the U.S. Any company from Canada worth its salt has an operation here in the U.S. anyhow,” Williamson said.
The updated free trade agreement would help to increase business opportunities between the U.S. and Canada, including here in Arizona.
“The USMCA is a very important piece of legislation to update the NAFTA, which is why Canada and Mexico are moving forward and U.S. president (Trump) is good with it as well. What is very frustrating is Congress playing political football with this agreement,” Williamson said. “They should bring it to a vote now and move forward. My fear is they will not and the NAFTA will then be at risk and if that happens it will significantly harm the North American economy.”