On the border with Mexico and home to Arizona’s largest port connecting our state with Mexico, Santa Cruz County (SCC) is poised for tremendous growth. The manufacturing sector on the Mexican side is undergoing a renaissance in investment. Reports are that the industry is in need of thousands of new employees and that there is a growing list of prospects that are looking to relocate or expand their operations in Nogales, Sonora.
Additionally, our long history as the largest (in terms of volume) single port for the import and distribution of fresh produce from Mexico in the United States continues to elevate Nogales as one of the nation’s most important ports of entry. And the industry is reporting growing diversification in the types of commodities that cross through Nogales and the produce season that used to last six months (November through March) is now exceeding 9 months (October through June) helping to alleviate the seasonality of employment in our community.
There is tremendous investment in our community. Perhaps the single largest catalyst for investment was the modernization of the Mariposa Port of Entry with close to $250 million in investment by Arizona and its federal government partners. This has spurred investment in new state of the art warehouses and distribution centers all over Nogales and Rio Rico.
By the beginning of 2020, we will see the groundbreaking of a $134 million project to modernize SR-189, a project that will greatly increase the efficiency of the connector between the port of entry and I-19 but also the safety of the traveling public. This is the single largest project that the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has undertaken in rural Arizona in the past decade.
Wineries and the Sonoita Fairgrounds are also an important part of our economy in the eastern part of the county. We have stepped up our support for the Fairgrounds the past three years in recognition of its contribution to the local economy and the community. Santa Cruz wineries and distilleries are being recognized nationally and internationally which is attracting new vineyards to our community.
Earlier this year, the Arizona Audubon Society released a report on the significance of rivers, lakes and streams for Arizona, which confirmed that the our local waterways represent an impact to our County GDP of $99 million, generate $11.5 million in state and local taxes, and have a total impact to Arizona of $188.9 million each year – just from Santa Cruz County!
And finally, we are working closely with South32 as they develop the Hermosa Mine to ensure that mining operations consider the quality of life of our residents, protect the environment and that they are making long-term commitments to our community. They will create hundreds of full-time jobs and will greatly increase the average income for the County. Our work with the leadership of South32 will continue to ensure that they have a positive impact on the County.
With manufacturing, fresh produce, international logistics, tourism, mining, and much more, Santa Cruz County offers a strong foundation for sustainable growth and job creation for our residents. This means that our youth can aspire to look for jobs here, raise their families here and invest here instead of going somewhere else. These are all long-term opportunities in our community, opportunities that I remain committed to developing for my district, for my county and for my state.
Editor’s note: Bruce Bracker is a member of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, representing District 3, which includes Sonoita, Elgin and Patagonia.