There has been a lot of rhetoric the past few years about who’s to blame for Tucson’s economic ailments and which political party has the better plan for reviving prosperity’s corpse.
Conservatives and liberals alike have wrung their hands about Tucson’s poverty and how to bring good-paying jobs to the region.
For the past few years the core of the conservative movement in Tucson has been opposition to illegal immigration while environmentalism has been the oldest and broadest-based of Tucson liberalism’s many sacred cows.
There is a solution to what ails Tucson on the horizon but it will mean many days of reckoning for Tucson’s liberals and conservatives.
If the goal is not simply to deny the other governance, but to actually improve the lives of the region’s 1 million residents, then both sides will need to come together and embrace what could be the greatest boon to the region since Ed Schieffelin found silver east of Camp Huachuca.
Our southern neighbor and former ruler of our metropolis has become over the past few years one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The Aztec Jaguar has risen as an export powerhouse that rivals the Asian Tigers.
And China has noticed. There’s a good reason China’s president visited Mexico in May before visiting our president in California.
The Canamex Corridor seeks to move the goods of Mexico, America and Canada by rail and by truck through the Western United States.
The intent is to go through Arizona, then to Nevada and north to Canada either by existing highways or a new one.
Mexico and China have discussed building a massive deep-water port on the Baja coast at Punta Colonet, meanwhile Mexico is expanding the port at Guaymas on the California Gulf coast.
The ports of Los Angeles are over burdened and have become choke points for shipped goods. Mexico not only needs bigger ports to ship its goods out, China needs a new port on the North American coast to get its goods into the continent.
For the Guaymas port, the fastest way into the U.S. is Nogales, which could bring a lot of that world trade through Tucson if Tucson is smart enough to capitalize on it.
That means we need a bigger, more efficient port of entry at the border. It means we need a big Union Pacific rail yard near Picacho. It means we need a new highway, Interstate 11, to bypass the metropolitan traffic choke points of Tucson and Phoenix and connect Phoenix to Las Vegas and Interstate 15. And it means a need for hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal, state and local governments to pay for the infrastructure necessary to transport and transship those goods.
The payoff on those investments would be billions of dollars a year in new economic development for Tucson, bringing tens of thousands of jobs.
To get to the payoff will require a broad coalition of private and public leaders – Congressmen, legislators, mayors and council members and supervisors, chambers of commerce, environmental coalitions, labor and education leaders – who will need to lobby the Congress, the state and local voters to bring this trade boom through Tucson.
But improving the ports of entry has been tossed out of the recent immigration overhaul bill over the mania to “secure” the border. And environmentalists have fought the freeway and rail yard over a mania to “preserve” the desert even though both freeway and rail yard will primarily consume farmland.
The trade will happen no matter what Tucson does. The trucks and trains will flow through the border somewhere. Maybe California, maybe Texas, maybe New Mexico, if not Arizona.
We mustn’t let prosperity literally pass us by. Give a little on immigration and a little on the environment and we stand to reap the harvest of Mexico’s rising fortunes.