Recap: U.S.-Mexico Regional Economic Competitiveness Forum (Arizona, Sonora, and Sinaloa)

This past Friday we held the second of four U.S.-Mexico Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums (RECF) in Rio Rico, Arizona together with our partners, USAID Mexico, the Council of State Governments-West, the Border Legislative Conference and the Mexico Institute/Woodrow Wilson Center.

Similar to the California-Baja California RECF, the Arizona-Sonora-Sinaloa forum consisted of highly informative, interactive panels and afternoon break-out sessions, where both speakers and attendees participated in the sharing of insight/recommendations on the regional economy, ports of entry management and infrastructure planning and connecting the region to the global economy. Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, U.S. House of Representatives and California State Senator Lou Correa, Chair of the Border Legislative Conference welcomed all participants with opening remarks, and the following panels proceeded:

Panel I: Challenges and Opportunities to Move People and Product Securely and Efficiently Along the Arizona – Sonora Border Region

Moderator: Luis Ramirez, President Ramirez Advisors Inter-National

Panelists:

  • Lance Jungmeyer, President, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
  • Alfonso Soto Parada, President, Maquiladora Association of Sonora
  • William Brooks, Director of Field Operations, Tucson, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

In this panel, speakers discussed the importance of rethinking how the border affects supply chains (in terms of infrastructure, technology and human capital); stated the challenges of insufficient infrastructure/mismanagement of the border (stressing the costs of border crossing wait times); and highlighted the potential of the large Arizona-Sonora ports of entry as well as the smaller ones.

Panel II: Promoting Regional Competitiveness

Moderator: Representative T.J. Shope, Arizona House of Representatives

Panelists:

  • Ricardo Brown, Investment Promoter, Economic Development Council for Sonora
  • Bruce Wright, Associate Vice President, Tech Parks Arizona, University of Arizona
  • Manuel Hopkins Ruiz, Director of Economic Development, City of Nogales, Sonora

Panelists’ stated that what distinguishes the AZ-Sonora/Sinaloa region is agro-business (importing the most amount of fresh produce from Mexico through Nogales), the mining industry (especially with a growing global demand for copper) and aerospace (where tech parks are leading the way for further innovation).

Luncheon Keynote speaker: Ana Luisa Fajer, Director General for North America, Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ana Luisa Fajer, addressed the audience at the luncheon, discussing Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affair’s commitment to the border region; in appreciation for the key role it plays in increasing economic competitiveness for the United States and Mexico. She explained the priorities of the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue (HLED), including student exchange and collaboration through MUSEIC and FOBESSI. Fajer asserted that, “(we) should be thinking in North American terms: using education and innovation to allow us to be more competitive.” She ended her talk with recommendations to seek out:

  1. Technology and government management systems
  2. More efficient transportation infrastructure
  3. Economic clusters and logistics corridors
  4. Alternate funding sources for border infrastructure

Panel III: Arizona – Sonora Trade Corridor

Moderator: Diputada Mireya de Lourdes Almada Beltrán, Sonora State Legislature

  • Marisa Walker, Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning & Infrastructure, Arizona Commerce Authority
  • Werner G. Cota Lopez, Confederation of Agriculture Associations, State of Sinaloa
  • David Careaga, General Director, Association of Farmers of Rio Culiacan
  • Russ Jones, Vice Chair, Border Trade Alliance and Former Representative, Arizona House of Representatives

This panel focused on the need for infrastructure, adequate staffing, and efficiency of border crossing for trade flows to run through.

Other distinguished participants included diplomats, business leaders and government officials, i.e.:

  • Mayor Arturo Garino, City of Nogales, Arizona
  • Mayor Douglas Nicholls, City of Yuma
  • Councilmember Reynaldo Gutiérrez, City of Nogales, Sonora
  • Representative Stefanie Mach, Arizona
  • Representative Victoria Steele, Arizona
  • Representative Macario Saldate IV, Arizona
  • Representative Rosanna Galbadon, Arizona

Our executive summary of the proceedings is forthcoming.  Also, Linda Valdez, columnist at the Arizona Republic, referenced the forum in her article, “Seal the Border? No. Staff the ports!” To read the article, click here. Lastly, to view pictures of the event, please click here.

Thank you to all who worked with us to make this forum a success. We look forward to continuing the series in Texas. Please check back in with us for more detailed information regarding the Laredo and El Paso forums and consider joining us.