Joint effort to market UA park is unveiled

Arizona-Mexico partnership seeks research offices for Tucson
2013-06-15T00:00:00Z Joint effort to market UA park is unveiledGabriela Rico Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The University of Arizona Science and Technology Park has signed a two-year agreement with a Mexican industrial park operator to jointly market their parks and the region.

The goal of the effort is to bring a company's research and development office to Tucson with assembly operations in Guaymas, Sonora, at one of the parks owned by The Offshore Group, which is a Tucson-based company that provides shelter operation to foreign manufacturers.

Called "Global Advantage," the partnership was announced Friday at the Arizona-Mexico Commission meeting hosted in Scottsdale by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padres.

Eduardo Saavedra, Offshore's executive vice president of business development, said there may be cases when the targeted company only picks one site.

"That's still a benefit to the neighborhood," he said, referring to the Arizona-Sonora region.

Sonora has in recent years emerged as a leader in the manufacturing of engine components for the aerospace industry.

By offering UA-backed joint residence, the region might one day manufacture the whole engine, said John Grabo, director of business development for the Tech Park, 9070 S. Rita Road.

He said the UA will have an office in Guaymas and offer companies a "soft landing" where they can "kick the tires" of the partnership and spend two weeks between the two parks.

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who has long called for the tech park to bring in more industry, applauded the partnership.

He cited Offshore founder Luis Felipe Seldner's vast network as a reason for his enthusiasm.

"Mr. Seldner has access to all kinds of multinational corporations," Rothschild said.

Many announcements

The economic-development news was one of many announcements during the commission meeting in Scottsdale.

Guaymas seeks to be the first city in the world with door-to-door service for aerospace engine components, said Enrique Ruiz, director of the Economic Development Council for Sonora.

Instead of having a part travel around the globe for completion, the supply-chain hub being created in Guaymas could offer a complete product with door-to-door service, he said.

As the city improves in sophistication and lands more clients, there is more attention from abroad, Ruiz said.

One of the efforts getting much attention is the workforce training that is going on in the middle schools in Guaymas and Empalme, where the curriculum is being aligned to the aerospace manufacturing industry.

Using a model called MetroMatematicas, students learn algebra, geometry and calculus using the tools found in the plants where parts are assembled for clients such as Rolls-Royce and Boeing.

That program will be replicated in other Sonora cities and in Southern Arizona.

The Santa Cruz County Schools Superintendent, Alfredo Velasquez, has applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation Fund (I3) to implement the teaching method in Nogales.

Kinder Morgan pipeline

The energy committee discussed the impact of the increased manufacturing activity and Mexico's need for alternative fuel sources.

Allen Fore, director of public affairs for Kinder Morgan, said the Sierrita pipeline project to provide natural gas to Mexico is fully funded and that the company hopes to break ground next year.

The pipeline would connect to Kinder Morgan's existing line near Ryan Field and run through Sasabe.

While the project still needs approval - there's a public hearing in Tucson on Tuesday - Fore said the company is optimistic because 85 percent of the land on the route is state owned. The rest is the private property of five individual owners.

Kinder Morgan is in the process of buying easements on those properties to bury the pipeline.

"Not everyone is thrilled with our route," Fore said. "But it will provide a prolific supply of natural gas and help Mexico develop its infrastructure."

Mexico is also optimistic and recently secured funding from Japanese company Mitsui Corp. to finance the pipeline in Mexico.

Jose Esparza Jr., vice president of energy solutions for Southwest Gas, said the company is interested in supplying natural gas to the project.

Upbeat note to meeting

The commission meeting ended on an upbeat note, with repeated references by Brewer to "her friend" Gov. Padres and their close relationship.

"The issue of border security does not define our relationship," Brewer said.

Padres echoed her sentiments that their relationship has "never been better." He also commented on Rothschild's rallying of Arizona mayors to travel to Sonora and counter the negative image.

"Those are good efforts. He is very active in Sonora and working with the private sector and the government," Padres said. "It's very good for us."

In a nod to Brewer, Padres then added: "And I know my friend Governor Brewer supports her municipalities' activities since they represent Arizona."

COMING MONDAY

Read more news about Kinder Morgan's proposed Sierrita pipeline.

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@azstarnet.com or 573-4232.

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