FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Kelly Taft
MAG Communications Manager
PHOENIX (May 2, 2012) – Improving trade relations with Mexico and enhancing the flow of commerce into Arizona is the goal of a border resolution that has been supported by all of the Councils of Governments and all of the state’s metropolitan planning organizations throughout Arizona. The resolution calls for proactive support for infrastructure improvements at the Arizona ports of entry to improve traffic flow and improve trade between Arizona and Mexico.
Among the agencies signing the resolution are the Central Arizona Association of Governments, Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (which drafted a separate resolution in support of MAG’s efforts), Maricopa Association of Governments, Northern Arizona Council of Governments, Pima Association of Governments, SouthEastern Arizona Governments Organization, Western Arizona Council of Governments, and the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization. The Flagstaff Metropolitan Planning Organization will consider the resolution later this spring.
Issues being examined include increasing U.S. Customs and Border staffing; reducing commercial vehicle wait times; reducing the number of hours it takes to process rail cars through the border; and seeking dedicated funding sources for ports of entry.
A recent MAG Freight Transportation Framework Study, which examined the Sun Corridor, found that other border states like Texas are far outpacing Arizona when it comes to developing trade relations with Mexico. While Arizona exports to Mexico totaled about $5.7 billion in 2011, in Texas the total was $87 billion.
“Those numbers tell the story: We are losing valuable economic development opportunities to other border states. It is time for local governments to assist the state in enhancing our trade relations with Mexico, and to capitalize on the numerous benefits that an improved relationship would bring,” said MAG Chair and Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman. “The support that we are receiving from our fellow planning agencies in this effort has been phenomenal, and it illustrates that Arizona is ready and willing to be proactive in this effort.”
Legal Mexican visitors spend approximately $7.3 million each day in Arizona.
“Arizona’s border is the gateway for some $26 billion worth of imports and exports and some 44 million people each year,” said Arizona-Mexico Commission Executive Director Margie Emmerman, who serves as the policy advisor for Mexico and Latin America for the Governor’s Office. “In order to maximize the opportunities that this flow of goods and people present, we need to make the appropriate investments in inspection and transportation infrastructure. Having all of Arizona’s Councils of Governments and planning organizations approve a resolution that highlights border infrastructure and trade is indicative of the growing recognition and understanding of the importance of the border to the state and to the nation. The Arizona-Mexico Commission remains committed to working with the border communities, the councils of governments and other stakeholders to ensure that we are ready for current and future growth and job creation throughout Arizona,” she said.
The idea for a border resolution was born out of a recent series of trips in which elected officials, business leaders and staff from Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties visited the Arizona ports of entry in Nogales and San Luis. The purpose of the trips was to better understand the challenges facing freight movement to and from Mexico and Arizona.
“I attended both trips to the ports of entry and personally witnessed the need for appropriate investments to help improve trade across our border,” said Litchfield Park Mayor Thomas Schoaf. “As the chair of the MAG Economic Development Committee, it is encouraging to see the level of cooperation from the entire state in recognizing these issues. We can greatly enhance our economic situation not only at the border but throughout Arizona by improving our border crossings.”
Recently, Governor Jan Brewer announced the formation of the State Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance to also explore infrastructure improvements and economic opportunities at the border.
“Enhancing global competitiveness and supporting the creation of quality jobs in Arizona is a principal objective of the Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance,” said John Halikowski, director of the Arizona Department of Transportation. “By examining current and future infrastructure needs, we can chart a strategic course for Arizona’s position as a leader in the trade, logistics, infrastructure and energy sectors. Support from the state’s councils of governments demonstrates the widespread commitment to further the goals of the alliance.”
The issue is additionally getting federal attention. With the U.S. global market share of spending by international travelers falling from 17 to 11 percent, in January President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Process Goals and the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness.
“This issue now has national momentum and the support we have had from the local leaders is tremendous,” said Avondale Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers, who serves as vice chair of MAG and is also the incoming president of the National League of Cities. “We are unique in that our regional planning agencies are banding together in concert with the state to move Arizona forward in our global economy.”
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For further insight into the importance of the Border Resolution, see the comments
from the signers below:
This resolution is supported throughout all regions of the state because investing in Arizona’s ports of entry with Mexico makes sound economic sense. Increasing border protection, reducing border delays and expanding trade are all important reasons to improve our infrastructure and border capacity.
—Casa Grande Mayor Robert Jackson, Chair of the Central Arizona Association of Governments
The CYMPO Board fully supports this effort to increase investment in border infrastructure and sees this as a critical step in improving economic development opportunities across the State of Arizona.
—Prescott Valley Vice Mayor Patty Lasker, Chair of the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization
At the recent Greater Flagstaff Transportation Summit it was made evident that our greatest trading partner is the Phoe- nix-Metropolitan area and that some of our greatest potential lies in international trade with Mexico. Improving border operations certainly helps the state’s economy, including Northern Arizona. We look forward to discussing this important resolution at our Executive Board meeting later this month.
—Coconino County Supervisor Matt Ryan, Vice-Chair of the Flagstaff Metropolitan Planning Organization
We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with our regional planning partners on the improvement of the state’s trans- portation infrastructure in support of statewide economic growth. This is an important step to enhance Arizona’s economic future and that of northern Arizona counties and communities.
—Yavapai County Supervisor Thomas Thurman, Chair of the Northern Arizona Council of Governments.
The Pima Association of Governments Regional Council endorses and joins the Sun Corridor Regional Planning Agencies and Native American Communities in the “Resolution of Support for Arizona’s Ports of Entry with Mexico.” Especially noteworthy in the Resolution is the undeniable nexus between improvements in our state’s ports of entry highway and rail transportation infrastructure and economic recovery and sustainability of commerce. We urge continued cooperation among all state partners and agencies with neighboring agencies in Mexico toward our mutual economic survival.
—City of South Tucson Mayor Jennifer Eckstrom, Chair of the Pima Association of Governments
The resolution is an example of intraregional collaboration at its best. Because the SEAGO region includes four inter- national ports of entry with Mexico, two of which are responsible for the majority of the approximately $30 million of international trade occurring each day with Arizona’s primary trading partner, we appreciate and applaud the efforts of our fellow COGs and MPOs to draw attention to the direct link these facilities have to the economy of the state, as well as the unmet infrastructure and manpower needs at Arizona’s ports. The trade statistics outlined in the Resolution speak for themselves. Hopefully the Resolution will cause policy makers at both the state and federal levels to recognize the return on investment that will occur when they appropriate resources targeted for border infrastructure and which are necessary to improve Arizona’s global competitiveness and economic vitality.
—Executive Director Randy Heiss, SouthEastern Arizona Governments Organization
The focus has always been on border security, which is important. However, it goes beyond security, to include economic development throughout the state. For instance, the positive side of legal crossings is that they (visitors) purchase merchan- dise, or attend event and tourist activities, and we know they come to buy goods and/or take their children places for en- tertainment. Therefore, if we look beyond security, we realize it benefits all of us within Arizona, because of the economic impact to all areas in Arizona. It is time for all of us to realize that united we make a strong case and we need to express, throughout Arizona, a united voice in favor of both border security and support for legal trade by improving Arizona’s border infrastructure.
—Yuma County Supervisor Tony Reyes, Vice Chair of the Western Arizona Council of Governments
It is heartening to see this high level of cooperation between all of these transportation entities. That kind of cooperation is what we need to grow Arizona’s economy.
—Yuma Deputy Mayor Paul Johnson, Chair of the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization