Sonoran Growth

Last week, I returned to Sonora for the first time since last fall. Ever since Horst Engineering moved our maquiladora operation from Nogales to Guaymas, I have taken a connecting flight from Phoenix directly to Guaymas. That all changed when on that last trip, I took the last flight out of Guaymas before USAirways cancelled the route.

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That meant that this time, I would either have to fly from Phoenix to Hermosillo and drive, or drive the whole way. I opted for the latter approach, but with a variation. I returned to Tucson for the first time since those Nogales days, which was very cool. So, last Monday, I flew into Tucson. In the afternoon, I visited a customer, and then I got a motel for the night. On Tuesday morning, after swimming at a Tucson pool, I hit the road for the 6.5 hour drive south to Guaymas.

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It was a good trip. I’ve made the drive before, but only as a passenger. There were no serious delays, other than some traffic in Hermosillo. I figured out the border crossing, immigration, and checkpoints. It was uneventful, which is good. I had a new Ford Fusion that had only 150 miles on the odometer when I got it. It had satellite radio, which was awesome considering the events of the week starting with the Boston Marathon. It was a weird feeling to be so far away from my beloved Boston knowing that so many of my friends were running or watching the race. CNN, Bloomberg, CNBC, Fox, NPR, and MSNBC on the radio kept me close to the action.

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Business in Sonora is good. The manufacturing economy is thriving in Mexico again, and this time it is higher tier more precision products that are leading the way. Our business is taking advantage of this resurgence. Sonora is a great nearshore location for companies who are focused on developing a lower cost manufacturing location. It isn’t the total solution to the challenges that manufacturers in high cost regions (e.g. New England) face, but it is part of the solution. Route 15 from the border south is being developed with separate southbound and northbound lanes, and with two lanes on each side. The construction is ongoing.

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The rail line between Sonora and Arizona is being developed further. Guaymas continues to expand its deepwater port as an alternative for incoming cargo that will ultimately reach the United States. Hermosillo was booming with multiple infrastructure projects and a lot of construction activity. Even San Carlos, that little town favored by ex-pats and snowbirds, is seeing some economic development. Our maquiladora shelter partners are clearing land for further development of their Roca Fuerte industrial park. Things are looking up.

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All of the development has a downside. It is sad that Mexicans struggle with conservation and an environmentally sustainable mindset. They are decades behind the United States in this regard. Actually, even Arizona is behind many other states in this regard. Recycling is almost non-existent. There is a ton of litter and the growth is far from “smart.” Evidence of this in San Carlos was the further desecration of the land around Teta Kawi. Last year, on a return trip, I noticed a new OXXO convenience store go up across the street from the mountain. This week, on my normal morning run route past the marina and towards the beach, I came across a sign on the Teta Kawi side of the road announcing a new gas station. What a shame. There aren’t enough cars or visitors to San Carlos to warrant another gas station. You have to know the area to know this, but trust me. I wish for a land trust or some conservation organization to assert itself. I need to learn more about the local politics. It pains me to see Sonora make the same mistakes that the USA made decades ago.

My return trip to Tucson was last Thursday. It took a bit longer to go north. I drove by our old plant in Nogales, skipping the truck route and saving one toll. Our old building has been empty since we left for Guaymas. Nogales was busy, but it has border town challenges. I was back in Tucson in time for dinner. The total trip north took seven hours including a full hour waiting in line at the border. Eventually, I was just waived through after  quick check of my passport, but there were a lot of vehicle searches around me. On Friday, I had a few more customer visits in Tucson. It was a good trip.

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