Governor Doug Ducey made his 41st trip to Southern Arizona on Wednesday, Dec. 7 when he visited Douglas to tour the Raul Hector Castro Port of Entry.
His visit came after the recent selection of a Tucson firm to conduct a feasibility study for modernization at the port, announced by the office of U.S. Rep. Martha McSally earlier this month.
While in Douglas the governor met with Port Director Margaret Baldenegro, who further verified the facility’s needs for modernization and expansion.
Following this tour, Gov. Ducey spoke before distinguished Cochise County residents during a luncheon event held at the Gadsden Hotel. As described by the governor, the event was attended by every leader, influencer, and key decision maker in the southern part of the state.
“The port is busting at it’s seams,” Gov. Ducey said. “That is a sign of the energy and the vibrant interaction in trade between Arizona and Mexico...I can definitely see what is needed there. You will have my support and advocacy in making this happen.”
The governor's call for support of the Port of Entry project is the first to come from the high ranks of the State of Arizona. The project has garnered support from the government of Mexico at all levels, Cochise County, as well as the advocacy of U.S. Rep. McSally in Congress.
Gov. Ducey thanked the congresswoman for continually pushing the port project, saying, “She’s just been terrific, and she’s a strong supporter of this community and funding for projects at your port, like the one I was able to see today...the safety, security and prosperity of Douglas and all of Arizona's border community, is very important to me.”
The port director was also complimented, for her insight and work at the facility.
“[Baldenegro] makes a great case to the intention of the port as it was built decades ago, and what’s happened in terms of our economy and the growth of Arizona and Mexico,” said Gov. Ducey.
He mentioned his desire for responsible spending in federal government, and affirmed that Douglas and the port have many needs.
He added, “You’re economic growth is going to require some investment both from the state level and the federal level so that we can have the proper infrastructure at the port, not only for commercial, but tourism, and pedestrian traffic.”
Taking away from his tour, the governor also stated that he believes the expansion of a separate commercial port of entry is necessary in this project,
“Of course we did the tour in 45 minutes. I want to spend some time to understand the numbers, and traffic, but it was backed up for what looked like miles,” said Gov. Ducey. “It’s busting at the seams.”
Amongst the key leaders who met with the governor was County Supervisor Ann English, who expressed her excitement for the elevation of priority of the project.
“I was excited to see John Halikowski, the Transportation Director for the State of Arizona, because any time we want to move forward or have any kind of industrial development, we need to have transportation represented,” English said. “We want to have [him] on our team. We’ve had congressional support for quite some time. We’ve had the support of some state legislators, but we haven’t had [him] on our team.”
She continued, “Him showing up here, with the willingness to work with us to provide whatever he can as far as transportation...that means a lot to us in Cochise County.”
During the luncheon, the governor took more time to express his pride in the community of Douglas. He acknowledged the legacy of former Arizona Governor Raul H. Castro, and applauded the continued service of the Castro family, who were in attendance.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Douglas’ vibrant arts scene is gaining more and more attention throughout our state,” said the governor. “Mayor Uribe, I also won't hesitate to say that Douglas’ warm hospitality and spirit of ingenuity exemplifies the very best of Arizona.”
Mayor Robert Uribe was also a keynote speaker at the event, and extended the community’s excitement for having a visit from a governor for the first time in seven years.
“The challenges [here] are many but the opportunities are even more,” Uribe said. “Like every other city in Arizona we’re facing growing needs with limited resources so we have to be informed in decision making, and efficient in planning and meticulous in action. We have taken many steps to advance and improve our city from repairing streets to writing and receiving grants..to enhance our arts and sports infrastructure and successfully create opportunities that strengthen our ties with our partners in Agua Prieta and Mexico.”
Gov. Ducey echoed the the mayor with his remarks of the importance of Arizona’s relationship with Mexico.
“We want to have a relationship with our border mayors, our border governors, there are common issues that we both share in ensured public safety for our citizens,” said the governor.
In an interview with the Douglas Dispatch, Gov. Ducey stated, “The message I’m taking back to Phoenix is that Arizona is open for business, and it’s all over the state, it’s in our rural counties, in Cochise, it’s in Douglas.”
He continued, “You have excellent leadership here from an elected official standpoint...They’re committed. No one is sitting on the sideline from what I saw. This gives me great energy to see these parts of the state, seeing the growth and development that’s necessary to build an economy. It will help Douglas, it will help Cochise, and it will help the State of Arizona.”