Tucson, Phoenix may open joint trade office in Mexico City













“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” Mark Twain



January 11, 2014 12:00 am  •  By Darren DaRonco

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild has made trade with Mexico one of his top priorities since assuming office two years ago.

That’s why he’s now exploring an invitation from Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton to join his city when it opens an economic development office in Mexico City.

While recent moves to bolster economic ties with some Sonora cities have had payoffs, Rothschild said the city could significantly improve its fortunes by having a seat in an international city.

But he also cautioned that one can’t just show up and expect the money to start flowing.

“Mexico City is a different animal,” Rothschild said. “When you go down there, you don’t want to go down there as an amateur.”

He said partnering with Phoenix could give the city a direct line to professionals who can put Tucson officials in touch with the right people at little to no cost.

Although in the initial stages, the cost is estimated at $150,000, with Phoenix kicking in the bulk at $100,000 and the remainder being split between the Maricopa Association of Governments and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Rothschild said.

He was uncertain how much Tucson would be asked to pony up.

Before jumping in, he gauged the City Council’s opinions during Wednesday’s meeting to see if he should pursue it further when he met with Stanton and other Arizona and Mexican mayors on Friday.

Most council members were lukewarm to the idea, and said the city should proceed with caution until all the details and costs are known.

Councilwoman Regina Romero was hesitant to endorse an office in Mexico City because she felt the money might be better spent closer to home.

“The best value for our investment is going to continue focusing on our neighboring states of Sinaloa and Sonora,” Romero said.

If the city does move forward, Romero would like groups such as Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities or the Pima Association of Governments to foot the bill before turning to the city’s coffers.

Councilman Paul Cunningham said he’s fine sharing office space, but wants the city to enter into any deal with Phoenix with its eyes wide open.

“They are not our partner. They are our competitors,” Cunningham said. “Phoenix competes with the Tucson market for money coming out of Mexico. And I don’t want to lose any more than we already have.”

Others said damage caused by SB1070, Arizona’s key law targeting illegal immigrants, has hindered trade more than an absence of a trade office.

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich said she’s not opposed to working with Phoenix, but many folks in Mexico still harbor bitter feelings toward Phoenix, the capital city where SB1070 originated. She would like the Legislature to repair the state’s image in a meaningful way.

“Opening up an office in Mexico City and hanging a shingle for the state of Arizona isn’t going to do it,” Uhlich said. “It’s going to take a bit more than that.”

Rothschild said he appreciated the conversation, and will keep the sentiments in mind as the discussion progresses.

Even if the Phoenix partnership falls through, Rothschild still wants to tap into the Mexico City market.

“If we can make it work, that would be great,” he said. “But one way or another, Tucson will have a presence in Mexico City.”

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com. Follow on Twitter @DarrenDaRonco


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