/ Modified dec 7, 2016 10:53 a.m.

Cross-Border Governors Collaborate for Business

Leaders came together to discuss what they call the Arizona-Sonora 'Mega-Region.'

Ducey Pavlovich Massieu Arizona Sonora Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich, Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey spoke at the Arizona-Sonora Commission Summit in Hermosillo in early December, 2016. (PHOTO: Jorge Valencia, Fronteras Desk)
By Jorge Valencia, Fronteras Desk

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HERMOSILLO, Son. - Gov. Doug Ducey wore a black suit, and on his jacket a pin with the flag of Arizona on one half and the flag of Mexico on the other.

"Buenas tardes," Ducey told a crowd of a few hundred business and government leaders gathered in sunburned Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora.

Ducey was speaking at a just-completed meeting of the Arizona-Sonora Commission.

Quickly, Ducey turned to a recent accomplishment: Lucid Motors will hire 2,000 people to build electronic vehicles in Pinal County, and the company chose that location because of its proximity to a supply chain of parts in Sonora, he said.

"This is a major win for Arizona, Sonora and our entire region.”

Soon after, Ducey’s counterpart, Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich, welcomed him: "Thank you for being here, thank you for your friendship, for your leadership, and for being such a good partner.”

Pavlovich listed a few of the advantages of what the two governors call the Arizona-Sonora Mega-region: a supply chain that can connect the center of Mexico to the American West Coast, access to relatively inexpensive labor.

"We can develop bi-national relationships at the local level," Pavlovich told the crowd. And, she added, they should benefit Sonora and Arizona.

The collaboration between Ducey and Pavlovich stands in contrast with the hard line President-elect Donald Trump is drawing.

Last week, Trump convinced the air conditioner manufacturer Carrier to outsource fewer jobs to Mexico. And yesterday, he promised to impose a 35 percent tax on companies that fire American workers and build plants elsewhere.

Gonzalo Rodriguez, an economist with the Sonora Regional Center of Innovation, said factory workers in the U.S. depend on supplies from Mexico.

"What is the best for the United States is the prosperity of the United States and the prosperity of Mexico," Rodriguez says. "If they both are prosperous communities, they will be better off.”

But manufacturing is only part of what links Arizona and Sonora.

At the summit, there were people like Bruce McKee, an energy adviser with Ameresco in Gilbert. McKee helps local governments and businesses decide when and where to buy electricity and gas. McKee recently budgeted a client’s annual energy expenses at $340 million.

McKee came to the summit because he wants to learn how to better help a company from Arizona that already operates in Mexico, he said.

"I can’t tell you what the customer name is, but they’re a big user and they provide household products that we use every day," he said.

There were also Mexican business people like Arturo Fernandez, a founding partner of holding company Helios, which owns car dealerships, wheat mills and greenhouses.

Fernandez has been working for years on a project to invest in solar energy farm - in Mexico first, and potentially in the U.S.

Which is what brings Fernandez to this conference.

"It’s very efficient because you have a concentration of people that are in the industry, and then you don’t have to travel to the U.S. because they’re already here," Fernandez said with a laugh.

Fernandez, who lives in Hermosillo, smiled when saying he drove only five minutes to the conference. A similar one will take place next summer — in Arizona.

Fronteras Desk
This story is from the Fronteras Desk, a collaboration of Southwestern public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Fronteras Desk.
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