Arizona Trade and Investment Office in Mexico City

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Arizona is expanding its presence and investment in Mexico by opening an investment and trade office in Mexico City. The office will be led by the Arizona Commerce Authority in partnership with the City of Phoenix. Arizona Commerce Authority President and CEO Sandra Watson and Phoenix City Council District 8 Councilwoman Kate Gallego talk about the state’s trade relationship with Mexico’s largest city.

José Cárdenas: Good evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. An Arizona delegation is heading to Mexico city to open a trade and investment office. And, in sounds of cultura SOC, Arizona opera brings the world's first mariachi opera to the stage. Up, straight ahead on "Horizonte."

Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you for joining us. Arizona is expanding its presence and investment in Mexico by opening an investment and trade office in Mexico city. The Arizona office in Mexico city will be led by the Arizona commerce authority in partnership with the city of Phoenix. Joining me to talk about this are Sandra Watson, Arizona commerce authority president and CEO and Kate Gallego, Phoenix city councilwoman for district 8. Thank you both for joining us here on "Horizonte." First of all, councilwoman, your particular district, what is your particular interest in this trip? You are going on the trip?

Kate Gallego: Uh-hmm.

José Cárdenas: What are you going to be talking about?

Kate Gallego: I represent the airport and I'm particularly interested in our investments in tourism and in addition to economic development. I will be the lead elected official on the tourism track. We will be promoting Arizona as a destination, working with our airline partners to make sure that people can easily get between Arizona and Mexico. We will also work with brand USA which promotes the United States in Mexico to make sure that they're aware of everything that we have to offer in Arizona and the city of Phoenix in particular. I had the pleasure of representing the convention and -- the convention center, and we want to get as many people as we can, if they want to book trade shows or otherwise visit, the more I think we can get them to Phoenix they will like what they see and continue to invest in Arizona.

José Cárdenas: How important is this to Phoenix in particular and Arizona in general?

Kate Gallego: Our mayor has a very ambitious agenda on our relationship with Mexico. He wants to double exports in five years. He likes to think big. This was one of the biggest things he announced at the state of the city agenda, and we're really hoping this will be a major job creator for us in city of Phoenix. When we visit our local businesses now, we are regularly talking to them about the opportunities to expand their exports to Mexico. We can help them in partnership with the commerce authority to navigate the political climate there to understand the market, the growth in the market. Goldman Sachs is predicting by 2050, Mexico will be the -- they are on our borders. We have to take advantage of this. It's smart business, smart politically and great for Arizona and Phoenix.

José Cárdenas: This is not the first time that the state of Arizona or some of its cities have had a presence in Mexico city. What's different this time?

Sandra Watson: Well, as you know, having been involved in commerce, the department of commerce for many years, the department of commerce did have a presence in Mexico, and we have had a presence there since the mid-90s. Difference here is we've always had a presence. We've always had someone very much focused on Mexico. The difference here is we have a very strong unified collaborative effort. We sent the entire state -- partners within the state with the previous efforts, but this now is a very strong, unified collaborative effort by the state of Arizona, the city of Phoenix, number of other partners, MAG, visit Phoenix, and the city of Tucson also financially contributing to the overall office. So the difference is that we're just strengthening. We are going to continue our presence and we're strengthening and building on what we've done in the past and continuing to have a very active voice in Mexico. Also the difference from the previous efforts is that we have more people on the ground in Mexico. So we have an entire team that is focused on delivering services to companies, both in Mexico and in Arizona, to encourage the joint relationships and partnerships.

José Cárdenas: So, how many people in the Mexico city office and what will they be doing?

Sandra Watson: Right.

José Cárdenas: Who is the customer base actually there?

Sandra Watson: Right. So, we have hired market one to staff our operations in Mexico city. The office is to -- office that we're setting up supports the entire Arizona effort as well as the city of Phoenix effort in Mexico, an is a whole. But they will be based in Mexico city. We will have a -- the feel of market one will be active in our efforts, as will the program manager, project manager, and we will have several key staff people actually performing the functions of the ACA, but in Mexico. So, the ACA offers opportunities for businesses to expand their operations here in Arizona. We want to make sure that we're talking to Arizona businesses and their opportunities to export to Mexico, create opportunities and joint partnerships. We're also looking for investment opportunities from Mexico. So, those companies who are interested in setting up a presence in Arizona, we are going to be very active in pursuing those opportunities. The last piece that I really do want to mention is that we are also very much focused on the start-up community and innovators and commercialization of technology. Substantial efforts in Mexico, as well as here in Arizona. We want to make sure that we're developing opportunities for Arizona companies to connect with innovators in Mexico, as well as innovators to connect with businesses in Arizona.

José Cárdenas: Councilwoman, any concerns about the image that Arizona at least in the past has had in Mexico and how you convince people to come here?

Kate Gallego: Well, that's one of the things we hope to do is dispel stereotypes that aren't accurate by showing how much we are investing in Mexico and how much we care. This is the mayor's ninth trip. We are going regularly. This is a priority. We value our border with Mexico, most important trade partner and we want to be sure that they see the political support on both sides of the aisle. A bipartisan delegation, and we will answer any questions they have if they have concerns, but we really want to welcome them and this office is a physical sign of how much we value that relationship.

José Cárdenas: What about Phoenix versus the rest of the state? I think people consider Tucson a natural destination for Mexican tourists, Mexican shoppers and so forth. How do you convince them to make the further journey to Phoenix --

Kate Gallego: We are hoping to have this ability to market our destinations to tell them about our wonderful park system, our convention system, our great events like the Super Bowl which has attracted a lot of interest in Mexico and we will be partner be with brand USA who promotes our entire country to also make sure that they're aware of what we are doing in Phoenix.

José Cárdenas: How important is the tourism aspect?

Sandra Watson: It's very important. We partner very closely with the Arizona office of tourism. They're a part of this delegation. And the tourism industry and the tourism opportunities are very important, and generally lead to some kind of economic development opportunity. So, the important -- the important efforts that the tourism community brings to this will be able to continue to build on. Business decision makers who first come to Arizona as tourists.

José Cárdenas: What about the delegation, make-up of the delegation generally? Who is going on the trip?

Sandra Watson: We have a large delegation. We have about 70 people that are part of the delegation. It is being led by the Arizona Mexico commission, the Arizona commerce authority, the Arizona Department of Transportation, the Arizona office of tourism, the city of Phoenix. We are the primary sponsors and partners of the visit, in addition to our entities, we have included the chambers. Various chambers are joining us. We have representatives from MAG and other entities. The speaker, Andy Tobin, will be joining us as well. Members of the legislature also as part of the delegation. It is a very large delegation. We're very excited about the discussions that we will be having with those officials in Mexico. So prior to the opening of the office on the 7th, we actually have a very strong agenda meeting with business leaders, as well as elected officials in Mexico to talk about business opportunities. We also have the opportunities as we mentioned on the tourism side and another track led by John, the director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, that will really focus on infrastructure and the opportunities that Arizona has with Mexico in building out our infrastructure.

José Cárdenas: How much is this going to cost on an annual basis?

Sandra Watson: Overall budget for the office is about $435,000. $300,000 is coming from the state, and $35,000 from the city of Phoenix, a strong partner in this effort, and we have the remaining financial partners are MAG, city of Tucson, and visit Phoenix.

José Cárdenas: Now, as it was just mentioned, the city of Phoenix is one of the big funders for this effort. Budgets are very, very tight. How do you justify the expenditure of those kinds of dollars for this effort?

Kate Gallego: We really want to make sure that we're growing our economy and our experts. One thing we learned in the downturn, we cannot be overly dependent on real estate. We need to look beyond our borders and we expect this to be the best $75,000 we're spending because of the economic development potential. It is a huge market. If you look at neighboring communities, such as Utah, state of Utah has been growing their exports during a time period when ours are shrinking. They're a smaller state. We need to compete. If we have this physical presence, competitive, making sure that our companies are in front of consumers in Mexico and they know what we are doing in Arizona. We think this will help us in the export area.

José Cárdenas: Money well spent.

Sandra Watson: Money well spent.

José Cárdenas: Good. Thank you for joining us and travel safely.

Kate Gallego: Thank you.

Sandra Watson: Thank you.

Sandra Watson:President and CEO, Arizona Commerce Authority; Kate Gallego:Councilwoman, Phoenix City Council District 8;

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