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New Study Examines Phoenix-Sonora Business Ties

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Aired 12/4/12

A new study proposes how to boost connections between small businesses in the Phoenix area, and the Mexican state of Sonora. The study was unveiled Tuesday in front of city leaders from both sides of the border.

A graph by Thunderbird students shows how Arizona's imports from Mexico has lagged far behind California and Texas, part of a bigger trend of less bilateral trade between Arizona and Mexico.

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Arizona-Mexico Small and Medium-Sized Business Connections

Arizona-Mexico Small and Medium-Sized Business Connections

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— A new study proposes how to boost connections between small businesses in the Phoenix area, and the Mexican state of Sonora. The study was unveiled Tuesday in front of city leaders from both sides of the border.

Estimates for the number of jobs in Arizona that rely on trade are more than 111,000, and trade between the two is at almost $12 billion, but there is a growing consensus that those numbers could be much bigger.

After all, they lag far behind the bigger border states of California and Texas.

The Maricopa Association of Governments, which includes leaders from the Phoenix metro area, commissioned a team of MBA students from Thunderbird School of Global Management to study the issue.

The consultants found Phoenix could learn something from the business integration between San Diego and Tijuana.

"We would really like to see the same thing happen between Phoenix and the state of Sonora, so they can be viewed as one," said Stephen Sheldon, a Thunderbird MBA student.

The MBA team says local governments should create and then brand an economic region that extends from Phoenix to southern Sonora, and includes the port city of Guaymas.

"They could sell this new mega-region as a place where people will want to come do business and where we can hope to see investment," Sheldon said.

Other recommendations include the creation of a task force dedicated to boosting small business ties between Arizona and Sonora, trade shows to bring together family-owned businesses on both sides of the border, training to help Phoenix-based companies learn more about Mexican business culture, and resources for small businesses to interface.

Tom Schoaf, who is the mayor of the Phoenix suburb Litchfield Park and heads the Maricopa Association of Governments economic development committee, said what he would like to see is the creation of a centralized website to help small businesses find new clients and suppliers in both Sonora and Arizona.

"We need a way for a small business -- who doesn't have a marketing department, who doesn't have the infrastructure of a big company -- where that small business guy can go and find a need, and then go fulfill it," Schoaf said.

But Schoaf also acknowledged that one challenge will be to convince Arizona companies that Mexico is in fact a good place to do business.

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