Boots on the Border: Good for the Border
Earlier this month, Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona, along with Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced the Boots on the Border Act. This legislation is designed to remove the onerous, and at times duplicative, polygraph testing that is currently imposed on applicants that are veterans, military service members and members of other law enforcement entities that are applying for positions with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
CBP has not been able to fill 1,100 positions that were funded in the 2014 budget because the overly burdensome polygraph process is eliminating many veterans and current military personnel that are considering a career protecting our nation and our borders. CBP is reporting that the Tucson sector alone has over 21% of its fulltime positions unfilled. This condition is perpetuated by the extremely low ratio of job applicants to actual hires at CBP.
Arizona and its federal partners, CBP and the General Services Administration have invested over $400 million in port of entry infrastructure over the last 8 years but there is simply not enough staff to open-up every lane that is available. Port Directors have to play a constant game of taking from one to open up another in order to minimize the impacts to our ports of entry and to our border communities. Officers are forced to work extensive amounts of overtime and at times max out and cannot work anymore overtime. CBP needs to have the necessary staff to ensure the security of our nation along with facilitating trade and tourism that are critical to the Arizona and national economy.
Arizona’s border communities report that at least 70% of the sales tax generated in each community is directly attributable to the Mexican visitor and shopper. But if visitors have long delays to cross the border then they simply will not come to our stores and our restaurants. Additionally, Arizona’s trade relationship with Mexico totals over $15 billion in imports and exports and without efficient ports of entry we cannot maximize the opportunities that exist for Arizona companies.
CBP has made great efforts to streamline the recruiting process but they still have a long way to go. The Boots on the Border Act offers a new tool and a tremendous opportunity for Customs and Border Protection to recruit and hire some of the most qualified individuals our nation has to offer. We urge the entire Arizona Congressional delegation to support this legislation.
The Honorable Gerardo Sanchez, Mayor, City of San Luis
The Honorable Doug Nicholls, Mayor, City of Yuma
The Honorable John Doyle, Mayor, City of Nogales
The Honorable Robert Uribe, Mayor, City of Douglas
John S. Halikowski, Chairman, Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance
Jessica Pacheco, President, Arizona-Mexico Commission
Guillermo Valencia, Chairman, Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority
The Honorable Matias Rosales, Chairman, Greater Yuma Port Authority
Carlos Fernandez, Chairman, Douglas International Port Authority
Patrick Scherden, Chairman, Douglas Regional Economic Development Corporation
Gonzalo Avila, Chairman, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
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Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance strategic road map nears completion
Steering Committee focuses on job growth, trade, economic development
PHOENIX — A yearlong effort to establish the Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance strategic road map is entering the final phase, as key leaders met in Phoenix on Nov. 26 to talk about the finishing touches and the goal to finalize the road map by early 2014.
The final TTCA Steering Committee meeting of 2013 brought together leaders from Arizona’s transportation, trade and commerce industries, along with international entities. This past year, the committee has been working on developing a robust business and transportation plan for Arizona that will be laid out in a road map outlining the statewide vision.
“Remember what we are doing here — tying together economic development and transportation in order to promote trade and investment,” said John Halikowski, director of the Arizona Department of Transportation. “If it was easy, everyone in the world would be doing it well. But it isn’t easy, and we are trying to lead the way in Arizona with a new way of thinking.”
Halikowski co-chairs the TTCA Steering Committee with former Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe. TTCA leadership also includes Margie Emmermann, executive director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission; Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority; and Michael Hunter, director of policy and the special advisor on tax policy and reform for the Office of Governor Jan Brewer. Other leaders from the transportation and business communities head up the five TTCA subcommittees: Freight; Trade and Economic Development; Education and Communication; Logistics and Supply Chain Development; and Mexico and Ports of Entry.
The TTCA road map has become the guiding document for the areas where ADOT, the Arizona-Mexico Commission and the Arizona Commerce Authority come together. The agencies have one major goal: job creation and economic vitality through investment in transportation infrastructure and connections to regional and global trade corridors. It’s no small task, which requires not only a vision, but a collaboration of leaders and stakeholders who believe in that vision and work toward its reality.
“The road map provides an important tool for policy makers and implementers alike for charting Arizona’s economic future,” said Kolbe. “Used wisely, it can guide decision makers on the path toward improved infrastructure, increased trade and economic prosperity for our state.”
Capturing the road map’s vision means looking ahead to three major goals:
- Refocusing Arizona on the core economic foundations of an export-based economy.
- Moving Arizona toward a more globally competitive second century focused on trade, investment and infrastructure that bring new wealth and jobs to our state.
- Ensuring that infrastructure supports and facilitates Arizona’s economic goals.
“By strengthening investment and looking at the opportunities for importing and exporting, we can work on job creation,” Halikowski said.
TTCA leaders have determined that there are four pivot points, or key actions, that can improve the Arizona economy and enhance opportunities for export-driven growth. It begins with increasing trade and investment, which leads to improving connectivity to markets, which spurs high-value production, which ensures the alignment of actions. Each of these four pivot points filters into the next, creating a flow of economic development in Arizona.
Add to that a 20-year plan for infrastructure investment that will enhance connections to major domestic markets in southern California and central Texas and improve border crossings for commerce flow with emerging markets in Mexico. Ultimately infrastructure investments will create strong north-south and east-west trade flows and secure Arizona’s position in a strong global economy.
“We are in the middle of a vibrant regional economy with southern California, Texas and Mexico all around us,” said Gail Lewis, ADOT’s director of international affairs and public-private partnership initiatives. “We’re sitting in an area that continues to grow very rapidly. We’re very well positioned and we have a solid base, but we really need to pivot toward the basket to make the best shot.”
The TTCA road map outlines eight recommendations that will set Arizona in motion for success in a globally competitive economy:
Support Key Commerce Corridors, the 20-year infrastructure investment plan
- Focus on base industries as the core of the economy
- Improve the links among highways, rail, air and sea as transportation connectors
- Improve Arizona’s supply chain opportunities
- Strengthen the Arizona brand as an investment location, particularly for foreign direct investment
- Establish a partnership with Western Mexico to keep trade flowing into Arizona from our historic strong trading partners
- Develop ideas for an era of reduced transportation funding
- Double Arizona’s exports to Mexico by 2020
As Arizona sets out on the path to a vibrant economic future and global competitiveness, TTCA leaders emphasized that this is a plan that will be important to everyone who lives, works and plays in our state. Why is this relevant to the man or woman on the street? It’s all about jobs,” said Bruce Wright, associate vice president for University Research Parks at the University of Arizona and a member of the TTCA. “The end goal is to position us in the global economy so we are competitive, we are engaged.”
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What: Transportation & Trade Corridor Alliance Public Listening Session
Ports of Entry and Mexico Committee
Education and Communication Committee
When: April 24, 2013 from 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Where: Pima Community College Downtown Campus, Amethyst Room
1255 N. Stone Avenue
Tucson, Arizona 85709
Who: The Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance, Ports of Entry and Mexico Co-Chairs – James B. Manson and Margie Emmermann – invite all those interested in the importance of the border and proximity to Mexico as an asset to Arizona to attend this listening session and provide their insights, ideas and comments. Participants are also invited to provide their ideas to guide the TTCA in its strategic communications and public outreach activities. These comments will be considered by the Committee for writing the Ports of Entry and Mexico Roadmap Chapter discussed below.
How: Public testimony will be heard from 10:00 to 11:30 followed by a facilitated dialogue based on those testimonies from 11:30 to 12:30.
Please be prepared with a presentation no longer than five minutes. You may submit a one-page document providing further thoughts and background information at the time of the meeting or online at www.azttca.org
The purpose of the “Transportation, Trade and Global Competitiveness Roadmap” is to define a statewide vision that contributes to an economic development and jobs agenda. Each chapter of the “Roadmap” will be developed by committees as assigned by the Transportation and Corridor Alliance (TTCA) including Freight, Trade and Economic Development, Logistics, Supply Chain Development and Regional Sourcing, Mexico and Ports of Entry, and Education and Communication.
The Mexico and Ports of Entry committee will be writing a chapter for the Roadmap that will:
- Communicate the importance of the border and proximity to Mexico as an asset for Arizona.
- Provide guidance and suggestions to state agencies on how to improve the border crossing process for businesses and individual crossers.
- Suggest strategies for improving physical infrastructure at and near the border, including process improvements and the use of technology and smart transportation tools.
*** Contact Chris Stoller at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 542-1287 for any questions.
Click HERE to download the public notice.