Arizona And Sonora's Governors Collaborate In A Time Of Crossborder Uncertainy
Gov. Doug Ducey is wearing a black suit, and on his jacket a pin that shines with the flag of Arizona on one half and the flag of Mexico on the other.
"Buenas tardes," Ducey tells a crowd of a few hundred business and government leaders gathered in sun-burned Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora.
Ducey is speaking at a just-completed meeting of the Arizona-Sonora Commission.
Quickly, Ducey turns to a recent accomplishment: he says Lucid Motors will hire 2,000 people to build electronic vehicles in Pinal County, and that the company chose that location because of its proximity to a supply chain of parts in Sonora.
"This is a major win for Arizona, Sonora and our entire region,” Ducey says.
Soon after, Ducey’s counterpart, Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich, welcomes him: "Thank you for being here, thank you for your friendship, for your leadership, and for being such a good partner.”
Pavlovich lists 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 tells the crowd. And, she adds, they should benefit Sonora and Arizona.
This collaboration between Ducey and Pavlovich is 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, says that 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 advisor with Ameresco in Gilbert. McKee helps local governments and businesses decide when and where to buy electricity and gas. McKee recently budgeted a clients' 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 says.
"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 says.
There were also Mexican business people like Arturo Fernandez, a founding partner of holding company Helios, which owns car dealerships, wheat mills and green houses.
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 says with a laugh.
Fernandez lives in Hermosillo and smiles when he says that he drove only five minutes to the conference. A similar one will take place next summer — in Arizona.