/ Modified aug 6, 2013 9:24 a.m.

Tucson Wants Improved Economic Ties with Mexico

Mayor says recent trip south of border with AZ business leaders further opened eyes and minds to potential.

Lucero Rothschild Mexico Trip spotlight 0-80213 Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild listens as Larry Lucero, president of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, talks about the pair's recent trip to Mexico to strengthen economic ties between Arizona and Sonora. (PHOTO: Andrea Kelly)



Arizona and Sonora should be working more closely to boost business cooperation for the region, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said, and he is taking steps to make that happen.

Rothschild visited Sonora this summer to work on improving the economic, business and government relationship between the two countries and especially the two border states, Arizona and Sonora.

He was accompanied by business leaders, including Larry Lucero, a senior director at Tucson Electric Power and president of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. The commission, co-chaired by the governors of Arizona and Sonora, works to enhance cross-border business relationships.

Rothschild said a key component to getting the states to work together is the port in Guaymas, Sonora. It is as important to commerce in Southern Arizona as the port in Los Angeles, the mayor said.

To get that port to pay off for Tucson businesses, Arizona's infrastructure must be improved, he said, including upgrades to highways, railroads and airports to accommodate imports and exports along the border.

That will require help from other government agencies in Arizona, Rothschild said. He and officials with the Arizona Department of Transportation agree on that point, he said.

"It’s just very important ... that we think about it from a prosperity point of view first," Rothschild said. "Are there issues that will continue with regard to border security? Yes. And that’s why we met with the attorney general’s office and that’s why we met with the immigration office. But those issues are solved with cooperation and not with kind of setting yourselves up as opposites of each other.”

Lucero, who met with business groups while Rothschild met with government officials in Mexico, agreed that infrastructure and cooperation will strengthen border economies.

"We need to describe to our partners in central Arizona that there is mutual benefit as we align ourselves to recognize the opportunity as a statewide potential," Lucero said. "It’s not just for Maricopa County or just Pima County. It’s actually a statewide issue, and beyond that it’s actually a regional issue. We really do have a regional trading economy here with respect to Arizona and Sonora.”

Officials in Sonora also need to better understand that point, Lucero said. Mexican officials told him they didn't have a good sense of the Arizona-Sonora border commerce picture. Their meetings changed that, Lucero said.

"They recognize that they need to pay a lot more attention to this region, so not only will we have additional participation on the part of the federal government in becoming more familiar with our economic region here, but you will see the business community is going to take a much greater interest in the issues that are present at the border," he said.

As part of his work, Rothschid said, he asked city staff members to find three Mexican businesses interested in expanding to the United States and set a goal of getting them to come to Tucson, he said.

"I want to take some of those importers and exporters who are in California, Ohio, Chicago and set up their logistics headquarters here, much like Groupo Internacional has done, the offshore group, much like Sergeant Controls has put a location here," Rothschild said.

Members of the Mexican Congress will come to Arizona soon for more meetings, which Rothschild said is a good sign.

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