You may have seen The Republic’s take on today’s ribbon-cutting of the newly remodeled Mariposa commercial port of entry in Nogales. The piece nailed it.
Infrastructure is a critical element of trade efficiency. If freight is bottlenecked at an outmoded, aging port of entry, products can’t get to market quickly, costs go up, and the border region’s competitive edge slips. A Mariposa port that is built to handle today’s trade flows is a feather in Arizona’s cap as the state better positions itself to engage in a global economy.
Without adequate staffing, though, a new port will quickly become a white elephant. Nogales is getting ready to enter its busy season, when up to 75 percent of winter produce from Mexico enters at Mariposa. But even the shiniest new port won’t move the needle on trade efficiency; we need the personnel to staff all the inbound lanes and inspection booths.
Congress and Customs and Border Protection need to hear from the business community about the importance of staffing Arizona’s ports. The last budget deal appropriated funds for 2,000 new CBP officers, and the post-election omnibus spending bill is poised to add another 1,000 officers. While those big numbers are encouraging, they’re no help unless they find their way to busy Arizona ports. Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake deserve credit for putting together a letter signed by the entire congressional delegation about the need for adequate staffing at the ports. The bipartisan letter asks important questions of the Department of Homeland Security about the criteria the department is using in assigning new officers.
A port of entry is just one element of the logistics big picture. A reconfigured, remodeled port of entry will help grow Arizona’s trade profile, but it’s not a silver bullet. Ensuring freight can reach the interstate highway system safely and quickly means we need to upgrade the state highway snaking through Nogales that connects Mariposa to Interstate 19. Realizing the potential of a true Canada to Mexico trade route means making I-11 a reality, and improving Arizona’s overall transportation infrastructure is critical to improving our manufacturing capacity so goods can get to market in a timely manner.
Arizona is making the right moves on trade. A new Mariposa port and a new trade office in Mexico City are encouraging headlines. Let’s keep the good news coming.