NOGALES, Sonora - Saying the fates of the two states are entwined, Tucson's mayor led a group of Arizona mayors to Sonora Friday.
"Why the mayors?" Jonathan Rothschild said to attendees of a binational economic forum. "Because our federal and state leaders are not delivering the right message."
His remark received rousing applause from those attending the event in Nogales.
"Economically, ours is a region that must work together," said Rothschild, who has been pushing for strengthened relations with Mexico since taking office last year. Friday was his second official trade visit to Nogales, Sonora.
"Our fates are tied."
Mayors from Avondale, Buckeye, Chandler, Glendale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Nogales, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise and Youngtown attended the event.
"We represent cities from all across Arizona," said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. "As we discussed what to do with our political capital, building closer economic ties with Sonora was tops. The mayors and leaders from Arizona that are here get it."
Several government officials from the state of Sonora and Mexico's federal government presented the mayors with information about the state's economy - the four cornerstones being the aerospace, automotive and mining industries and investment in education tailored to those industries, said Moises Gomez Reyna, Sonora's secretary of the economy.
"We are investing in human capital and changing the options for studying in our universities and colleges," he said.
Instead of having courses taught by theory, industry experts are coming into the classrooms to discuss technology or bringing students to manufacturing plants to learn hands-on, Gomez said.
Sonora now has 45 aerospace manufacturing plants with 7,500 employees. With secured and pending contracts, that will grow to 60 plants with 10,000 workers by 2015, he said.
Automotive manufacturers currently have 87 plants with 22,000 employees and will grow to 90 plants with 31,000 employees by 2015.
The tourism industry is focusing on the filmmaking market and medical tourism, said Javier Tapia Camou, coordinator with the state tourism department.
And Rene Moreno, of the Nogales Business Council, said Sonora manufacturers are interested in joining economic-development teams in Arizona to present a "mega-region" marketing campaign.
Sonora's economy grew by 7 percent in 2012.
A Tequila toast
Before the forum began, the Arizona mayors got a tour of the Continental manufacturing plant, where workers assemble high-tech components for automobiles.
The 178,000-square-foot plant employs 1,800.
At day's end, they were greeted by dancers and musicians as they cut the ribbon to kick off the annual Tequila Festival in the city's historic downtown district.
Nogales, Sonora, Mayor Ramon Guzman Muñoz toasted Rothschild for piquing the curiosity of Arizona's other mayors about Sonora.
"You are the pioneer."
Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4232.