MEXICO CITY — A few years ago, a region in the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora suffered serious damages to its economy after an environmental catastrophe. But now that area has a plan to move forward, with the support of an Arizona-based organization.
It was in August 2014 when a copper sulfate spill severely affected an area known as “Río Sonora.” Since then, the rural community of 23,000 people has struggled. It ruined the economy of the area, but a new plan was announced Monday to draw tourists to the region to bring it back.
The plan was created through a collaboration between the Mexican state, the North American Development Bank and the North-American Research Partnership, a think-tank based in Scottsdale.
“The development plan was in response to the environmental disaster and the hit to the local economy, but it also addresses long standing challenges to the local economy,” said Erik Lee, executive director of the North American Research Partnership.
Lee said part of the project is to build a “free zone,” or “zona libre,” to reduce the paperwork to enter to Mexico.
“With the idea of the zona libre is that you would have more tourism and more funds,” he said.
The project also intends to stimulate the exports from the region, known for its carpentry, furniture and milk products.
According to Lee, the plan will also benefit Arizonans that either import regional goods or enjoy exploring south of the border.
The plan expects to improve the economy of eight municipalities that surround the Sonora River in 15 years.