I had the honor of attending a historic event this week in Phoenix – an Arizona Sonora joint state legislative meeting. It had been almost twenty years since such an event had occurred. This effort was led by Arizona Republican State Legislator Tony Rivero and Sonora Diputado Pano Salido.
It could not have occurred at a better time. Both legislative bodies recognized the national political tension between the U.S and Mexico but spoke eloquently about the importance of trade and strong relationships with our neighboring state. During an evening reception, the Chiefs of Staff for Governor Ducey, Kirk Adams and Governor Pavlovitch, Natalia Rivera spoke about their Governors commitment to building a stronger Arizona Sonora Megaregion. They also spoke about the relationship that both Governors had built over the last two years – one in which many issues were being discussed and actions planned.
The following day, the legislators were broken into three committees – education, tourism and trade/economic development. Each committee listened to expert speakers from both Arizona and Sonora and drafted recommendations to be provided to our Governors.
I was honored to speak on behalf of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber’s role in economic development. Sonoran legislators such as Omar Guillen Partida and Carlos Manuel Fu Salcido asked detailed questions about expansion of entrepreneurial training and workforce development. My recommendations to the committee included the coordination of small business resources from Arizona and Sonora to simplify the process of trade for entrepreneurs. I also spoke about the upcoming training programs we are developing with the Sonoran Economic Development Secretary on “Doing business in Sonora”.
Secondly, I spoke about the importance of our region being “at the table” during these high-level dialogues on border security, trade and tariffs. I have traveled to Washington DC four times since President Trump was elected and encouraged others to engage with his administration also.
Thirdly, there was discussion on workforce development and immigration reform. Arizona employers bemoan the challenge in finding qualified workers in trades (electricians, cabinet work) as well as engineers. With sixteen Universities in Nogales, Sonora, there is an opportunity to lead a discussion that could have national repercussions on developing a qualified workforce in Arizona and encouraging Arizona graduates to consider careers in Sonora. I suggested a joint Workforce Development Taskforce made of community colleges and the Arizona Workforce Council with leaders from Sonora.
Ultimately, the conversation focused on a “win-win” relationship between Arizona and Sonora. The legislators acknowledged the interdependence of our economies and felt that our bilateral relationships should deepen related to education, health care and entrepreneurship.
Both of our nations are living through highly controversial times with the new Trump administration. Several of the speakers addressed this issue and suggested we identify opportunities within the policies of the new administration rather than reacting to a crisis. The voices of Arizona and Sonora are vitally important as policy is drafted in Mexico City and Washington DC. Continued conversations like the historic Arizona Sonora joint state legislative meeting are important to further our Arizona Sonora Megaregion.
Lea Marquez Peterson, President/CEO
Tucson Hispanic Chamber
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