The burgeoning economy in Sonora and renewed interest from Arizona businesses to enter the Mexican market has prompted the reinstatement of a state post to promote international trade in the region.

Ignacio "Nacho" Escalante has been named director of trade and investment for the Arizona-Mexico Commission's office in Hermosillo, Sonora. Arizona eliminated the position in 2008, citing a down economy.

It will now be jointly funded by the Arizona-Mexico Commission and the Arizona Commerce Authority. Salary information wasn't available late Friday from Arizona's human relations department.

"Mexico is Arizona's single largest trade partner, so it's critical to our regional economic prosperity that we continue to build ties with our neighbors to the south," Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement announcing Escalante's appointment. "With his help and the continued commitment of leaders in Arizona and Sonora, we can put in place the conditions for economic opportunity that improves the quality of life for all of our citizens."

Brewer is the latest state politician to eye Mexico's manufacturing industry as a economic driver for Arizona.

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild has been leading the call for more business cooperation between the two states. This summer, he was joined by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton on a trade mission to Hermosillo and Mexico City.

As Arizona's top trading partner, Mexico accounted for 33.5 percent ($5.97 billion) of all exports and 35.1 percent ($6.16 billion) of all imports in 2011.

A week into his new post, Escalante, 53, said increasing trade between Arizona and Mexico and recruiting investors into the region is his top priority.

"Investment in Sonora benefits Arizona, especially with manufacturing where the research and development component could occur in Arizona," he said in a telephone interview from Hermosillo. "This activity benefits both sides and generates prosperity for both countries."

Escalante served as general director of the Economic Development Council of Sonora for 10 years. He was involved in the 2005 expansion of a Ford Motor Co. assembly plant in Hermosillo.

His new duties will include advising Arizona companies interested in doing business in Mexico and assisting their search for contracts and joint ventures. Escalante will also assist Arizona agencies with meetings, conferences and seminars that promote commerce, transportation, tourism and health-related services.

He sees Sonora's growing aerospace and automotive industries as the natural places to start connecting Arizona suppliers with manufacturers.

"The most important issue along our borders is growing both economies," Escalante said. "Sonora's economy is important to Arizona."

Did you know?

The state of Arizona opened its office of trade in Hermosillo, Sonora, in 1992.

"The most important issue along our borders is growing both economies."

Ignacio "Nacho" Escalante,

director of trade and investment for the Arizona-Mexico Commission's office in Hermosillo, Sonora

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at or 573-4232.