Gov. Janet Napolitano outlined her efforts Tuesday to encourage exports and foreign investment in the state, saying she is reorganizing the Department of Commerce to focus on international trade and urging the federal government to expand port-of-entry facilities on the Mexican border.
Also she emphasized the need for comprehensive immigration reform during her fourth annual International State of the State address to the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations at the Airport Marriott Hotel in Phoenix.
“In terms of international economic development, Arizona is a growing presence,” she said. “The image of Arizona is changing.”
She cited a 22 percent increase in Arizona exports to foreign countries last year, with even more rapid growth expected this year.
For the state to reach its full potential, however, she said improvements need to be made to the infrastructure at the border, both to increase security and facilitate passage of goods. Also, she said development of improved seaport facilities on Mexico’s west coast could take pressure off the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in California, turning Arizona into an alternative portal of entry for foreign products coming into the United States.
Although port-of-entry facilities are being improved at San Luis, more work is needed at Nogales and Douglas, she said.
Napolitano said renewed efforts are under way to improve infrastructure along the Canamex Corridor, a trade route from the Mexican state of Sonora through Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Montana to Canada’s Alberta province.
She said the appointment of former Rep. Jim Kolbe as chairman of the Canamex Corridor Task Force, announced Tuesday, will energize the project.
“He understands the importance of international trade, and his experience in government is a valuable asset,” she said of the retired U.S. congressman.
Kolbe replaces Peter Woog, who resigned in June. Woog oversaw the corridor’s initial development, including construction of a road and bridge bypass at Hoover Dam.
Napolitano said Arizona also will develop a strategy to increase trade with China, including identifying products most likely to sell in China and regions in China that would be most likely to buy Arizona products.
Carlos Flores Vizcarra, Mexican counsel general in Phoenix, said the Mexican government is investing in port and other infrastructure improvements that will facilitate trade, but he welcomed the governor’s interest in diversifying Arizona trade partners with her emphasis on Canada and Asia.
Glenn Williamson, chief executive of the Canada Arizona Business Council, said the state is finally developing a comprehensive policy on trade and investment, adding that “Arizona is coming off its international training wheels and getting in the game.”
He expects the number of Canadian winter visitors and tourists to Arizona to increase to nearly 600,000 this year, up from 500,000 last year, as Canadians take advantage of their stronger currency, which makes American vacations more affordable.