Steve Macias


Made in Arizona

Commentary from a manufacturing perspective

Unlike the Mel Gibson movie of the same name, the signs that are cropping up in Arizona are not of an impending alien invasion but of potential long term developments that will help to create a truly sustainable economy.

Too often in life and in politics we seem fixated on the “quick fix” as opposed to solutions that often involve more work, are more painful in the short term, and don’t provide the quick boost that our “do it now” society often demands.

In the past month I have been fortunate to participate in a couple of events where the subject at hand has been what our manufacturing and economic environment will look like in five, 10 and 20 years down the line. If we can accomplish the goals that have been outlined, manufacturing should be a contributing factor to Arizona’s economy for many years to come.

The first event I attended was a presentation of the Southwest Direct initiative, which seeks to utilize Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport as the center of a transportation hub for the Southwest. As one of the concept’s proponents likes to put it, we have all the ingredients to be the Atlanta of the Southwest when it comes to being a transportation and logistics center. The way the current and potential interstates are positioned, the Phoenix metro area could be a gateway to and from California, to and from the Pacific Northwest, and to and from Mexico. This initiative could also help advance the long talked about I-11 highway from Phoenix to Las Vegas, opening up another avenue to facilitate trade.

Potentially benefiting from both Southwest Direct and I-11 is another endeavor that seeks to promote the growth of manufacturing in the Arizona-Sonora, Mexico region. The belief is that together, our region can compete globally to attract manufacturing that has in recent years moved to Asia or Eastern Europe. Often the perception is that Sonora and the rest of Mexico is the place for low cost, low complexity manufacturing and that the manufacturing done in Arizona and the rest of the U.S. is typically is a higher cost model that supports the aerospace, defense and semiconductor industries.

While those sentiments may originally have been grounded in truth, the abilities and efficiencies of both areas have evolved to the point that marketed or bundled together, our region can compete on a worldwide scale. Helping that cause is the recent and significant growth of manufacturing in the port city of Guaymas, Sonora, which would serve nicely as a conduit to the rest of the world until or even after the much delayed commercial port in Punta Colonet becomes reality.

Nationwide, people are looking at manufacturing as a great savior, however realistically we will not return to the labor intensive industry of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. But manufacturing can still be an important bullet in the chamber for a fully loaded economy.

The most encouraging sign is that none of these developments are quick fixes or a short term stimulus that will have some limited effect and then leave us grasping for the next economic lifeline. These projects are long term proposals that will permanently alter the economics of Arizona and the entire Southwest.

Steve Macias is the president of Pivot Manufacturing and the chairman of the Arizona Manufacturers Council