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Strengthening Arizona-Mexico relationships: Q&A with Patrick Welch

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Submitted by the 108th Arizona Town Hall

When hearing about the 108th Arizona Town Hall on Arizona/Mexico, Patrick Welch jumped at the chance to participate. The attorney with Jennings Strouss & Salmon, P.L.C. was excited to gather with Arizonan and Mexican community and business leaders to focus on strengthening the economic ties and developing partnerships between the two. Patrick’s wife Maribel was born and raised in Hermosillo, Sonora. After relocating to Phoenix from Boston in 2007, Patrick’s family routinely visits family in Hermosillo to enjoy everything their second home has to offer — delicious cuisine, Naranjeros’ baseball games, trips to a family ranch called “La Milpa,” and beach trips to Kino Bay. Over the years, Patrick has also developed a cross-border legal practice serving Arizonan and Mexican individuals and businesses. Patrick has seen firsthand how interconnected the Arizona and Mexican economies are and has sought to promote a comprehensive relationship between them.

We understand that you were not only a participant in the Arizona Town Hall on strengthening Arizona/Mexico relationships held in April 2016, but you also participated in law month’s Arizona-Mexico Commission (AMC) and Comisión Sonora- Arizona (CSA) winter summit, which focused on trade promotion and binational information sharing between the two states. Are there some common themes that resonated between the Arizona Town Hall and AMC/CSA Summit?

The events certainly shared common themes; two of which I believe are critical to the growth of the Arizona/Mexico partnership. First, is the importance of promoting the benefits of the Arizona/Mexico partnership within the states of Arizona and Sonora. Arizona Town Hall participants echoed this sentiment stating, “The border does not divide Arizona and Mexico, it connects us and should be viewed as a bi-national region.” A major benefit of the Arizona/Mexico partnership for Arizona is its economic impact. Even before Sonora Governor Pavlovich took office, governors Ducey and Pavlovich shared with each other their common vision for a vibrant Arizona/Mexico partnership and have since taken meaningful steps to strengthen the partnership. Consistent with the message of viewing Arizona/Sonora as a “bi-national” region, the AMC/CSA Summit strategically branded the winter summit as “The Megaregion:  A partnership that generates results.” I believe that this concise branding message will be a key driver moving forward.

Another theme that both events shared was the need for increased investment in Arizona’s and Mexico’s transportation infrastructure — particularly in the areas leading up to and at border points of entry. Such infrastructure improvements will allow the region to compete more effectively with neighboring states like Texas and California, and maximize economic opportunities in cross-border trade and tourism.

The recent investments in the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales and the San Luis Port of Entry were important steps, but more needs to be done to improve border infrastructure leading up the border.  For example, widening and adding lanes to Mexico highways 15 and 2 will ease traffic and improve border wait times. Increasing Customs and Border Protection port staffing to keep more border crossing lanes open for traffic is another priority. Our federal delegation should continue to seek additional federal funding for port staffing. We should also explore private sector funding to supplement federal funding.  Finally, stakeholders should continue to lobby for an expansion of the federal Border Crossing Card to include the entire state of Arizona (currently limited to Tucson); thereby allowing Mexican residents to more easily enjoy all of Arizona.

What does the Arizona/Mexico partnership mean to you personally and what do you believe it means for Arizona?

When I think of what the Arizona/Mexico partnership, I am reminded of the excitement that my family from New England felt when they attended my wedding in Hermosillo. To this day, my family routinely tells me that their trip to Hermosillo was one of the best experiences of their lives — the people, the history, the food, and the scenery. Every time I visit Mexico, I return to Arizona with this same excitement and a stronger appreciation of what Mexico and its people mean to my family.

When I think of what the Arizona/Mexico partnership means for the state of Arizona, the word neighbor/”vecino” comes to mind. Those Arizonans and Sonorans involved in cross-border business, cultural and academic exchange and philanthropic efforts personify what it means to be a good neighbor. I believe political, business and community leaders need to continue to provide stakeholders with opportunities to develop those relationships. In the business context, all Arizonans need to continue to market the Arizona/Sonora “Megaregion” championed by the AMC/CSA. In the civic/educational context we need to expand programs like Hands Across the Border, which promote cultural exchange between Arizona and Mexico.

The benefits flowing from this partnership are limitless—new companies relocating to the region, new foreign investment in the region, regional job growth, increased tourism revenues, increased wealth and income, access to centers of commerce and health care services, educational/civic/community exchanges, and reduced poverty.  Lucid Motors’ selection of Casa Grande for its electric car manufacturing operation is a good example of the economic benefits of the Arizona/Mexico partnership. The facility will bring over 2,000 projected new jobs and more than $700 million in capital investment to the region by 2022. Lucid Motors selected Casa Grande based on number of factors, including the automotive supply chain in the Arizona-Sonora Megaregion.

What can be done to strengthen the economic ties between Arizona/Mexico?

The state of Arizona and its residents need to continue to foster this partnership. That means visiting our Mexican neighbors in Mexico and inviting our Mexican neighbors to visit us in Arizona. During the AMC/CSA Summit last month, governors Ducey and Pavlovich commented about the importance of their frequent meetings and how those meetings have nurtured a strong friendship between them. As stakeholders and neighbors, we need to follow that example if we want the Arizona/Mexico partnership to reach its full potential. On an economic level, Arizonans and Sonorans can certainly be taking more action to ensure that we maximize the benefits of the Arizona-Sonora Megaregion. We need to increase investment in the region’s transportation infrastructure and implement program funding to increase and improve the efficiency with which goods and tourists cross the border. The automotive and aviation supply chains in the Arizona-Sonoran Megaregion are prime success stories supporting Arizona’s robust commitment to the Arizona/Mexico partnership. Companies like Lucid Motors are now turning to near-shoring (the outsourcing of business processes and production to a lower cost organization in its own region) to increase competitiveness and  take advantage of the regional proximity of the Arizona-Sonora Megaregion in terms of geography, time zone, cultural, linguistic, and historical linkages. While recent federal political rhetoric indicates a potential shift away from globalization, Arizona and its residents need to be resolute in their commitment to the Arizona-Sonora Megaregion.

What kind of momentum have you seen since the Town Hall held last year and how can people find out more about the recommendations and how they can play a role in advancing them?

A month hasn’t gone by without me receiving an invitation from an organization hosting an Arizona/Mexico event. The AMC/CSA hosted two summits last year. The Arizona Town Hall hosted 10 community outreach programs throughout the state in 2016 discussing the topic. We need to ensure that more bi-lateral events are organized in order keep the Arizona/Mexico partnership at the forefront. My participation in the 108th Arizona Town Hall has inspired me to further support the Arizona/Mexico partnership. A recommendation resulting from the Town Hall program was the importance of organizing a similar program in Mexico. In cooperation with colleagues in Arizona and Sonora, we are organizing an Arizona Town Hall Community Outreach Program in Hermosillo for May 25-26, 2017. The feedback has been positive and people are asking how they can participate.

— The background and recommendation reports from the 108th Arizona Town Hall on Arizona/Mexico can be found at www.aztownhall.org and click on “past town halls” to find the topic and its appropriate links. 

Information on the Community Outreach Program scheduled for May 25-26, 2017, in Hermosillo, Sonora, can also be found on the Arizona Town Hall’s website.

One comment

  1. While I may not agree with all of Mr. Welch’s specifics, his overall theme – a truly bi-directional, mutually-beneficial economic, political and social relationship between Arizona and Mexico – makes complete sense. Recently we have seen great progress in the states of Sonora and Baja California Norte and not just in providing a source of low-cost labor for the “maquiladora” facilities that line the south side of the border.

    Make no mistake, I am also a complete supporter of improved border security – the “open borders” idea is ludicrous. But at the same time, I understand the level of mistrust in the new US administration that exists in Mexico. Let’s give the AMC/CSA effort a chance to succeed, while putting reasonable border controls in place. Seems like a win/win scenario to me.

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