Competitive Border Communities: Mapping and Developing U.S.-Mexico Transborder Industries

Competitive Border Communities_ Cover

Since the implementation of NAFTA twenty-one years ago, trade between the United States and Mexico has grown six-fold. It now totals more than a half-trillion dollars each year, with approximately 80% of that—more than a billion dollars each day—crossing at the U.S.-Mexico land border. Trade in many ways drives economic development opportunities at the border, but focusing exclusively on moving goods through the region is insufficient. To truly capitalize on the potential of the border economy, government, businesses and educational institutions must come together across the border to strengthen the region’s human capital, supplier networks, and business environment.

As a continuation of the work presented in our recent report, The U.S.-Mexico Border Economy in Transition, the North American Research Partnership and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute undertook a project to identify, map and analyze key industries that are highly concentrated, dynamic and binational, operating within five binational sub-regions along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. Our goal was to understand regional supply chains, discuss approaches to cluster-based economic development, and develop steps that could be taken by local and federal actors to facilitate the further development of key industrial clusters.

This project involved the following components:
• a review of current thinking and research efforts on clusters and cluster-based economic development
• a series of binational focus groups held during June 2015 in San Diego, California; Tucson, Arizona; El Paso, Texas; Laredo, Texas; and Brownsville, Texas
• the mapping of crossborder industries (a web-based mapping tool is available here)
• a full analysis with findings and recommendations presented in our new report, Competitive Border Communities: Mapping U.S.-Mexico Transborder Industries by Christopher Wilson, Erik Lee, and Alma A. Bezares Calderón

The project was funded by the United States Agency for International Development Mexico and the Council for State Governments West.

For More Information on Regional Cluster Mapping:

U.S. Cluster Mapping

Observatorio Estrategico-Tecnologico

CaliBaja Research Initiative

For more information on the Competitive Border Communities project, contact:

Erik Lee, Executive Director, North American Research Partnership,

Christopher Wilson, Deputy Director, Woodrow Wilson Center Mexico Institute,