County Nets $80K Grant for Border Business Park

2013-08-09 22:57:26

Yuma County has received an $80,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Enterprise Grant that will be used to create a comprehensive business plan to develop the 240-acre Magrino Industrial Park adjacent to the San Luis Port of Entry.

The official announcement of the grant was made Friday afternoon at the Yuma County Administrative Offices on Main Street during a special event attended by U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva, USDA Rural Development State Director for Arizona Alan Stephens, various Yuma County supervisors, and Yuma County Administrator Robert Pickels.

Grijalva believes it is particularly important for border communities such as those in Yuma County “to push the agenda on economic development and jobs,” he said. “Trade with Mexico is going to be vital. Revitalization and renovation of our ports of entry is going to be vital.”

Now is the time “to get that type of an investment out of the federal government,” he continued. “That is what we are pushing for. I think for this grant they got, Yuma County is going to be a little ahead of the curve. They’ll have a plan about economic development. They’ll have a plan about the types of businesses they are going to want in those 240 acres.”

With the grant money now available, Yuma County will begin accepting proposals from consulting firms interested in studying the area and developing the business plan. The entire process is expected to be completed within about a year.

“We are going to bring a consultant in and they are going to do the development of a business plan for us,” Pickels said.

The comprehensive business plan will determine the appropriate market, infrastructure, capital resources, partners, strategies and goals to foster small business development in the Industrial Park which sits on the border with Mexico just east of the port.

Currently, the industrial complex is mapped with small parcels designed for small businesses and border-related businesses that would complement the international crossing.

The money will be used “to study different options on how to create the best industrial park that will be able to attract private sector investment,” Stephens said.

“It will be a marketplace for development, particularly as the border changes. We are on the front of a pretty dynamic environment along the border, and Yuma County can really benefit from that with a little planning, and that is what this is all about.”

Ultimately the purpose of the grant “is to create jobs,” Stephens added. “The development of this complex with a well-constructed business plan would be a real plus for Yuma County and San Luis. With an unemployment rate nearly four times that of the rest of the state, the promise of new jobs for the area is exciting. I think this is going to lead to opportunities in an area that needs employment and that’s why the federal government is interested in helping a county like Yuma get that momentum.”

According to Pickels, the goal is to bring long-term employment opportunities to the area which will best be accomplished by creating a valid business plan for the complex before anything else begins.

“You have to know how to market it,” he said, adding the leaders of Yuma County want to know “what is going to survive there” and “what is going to thrive there. It is a waste of time, I think, to bring somebody in there that is not going to plant roots and be there longterm. When we talk about creating jobs, we want sustainable jobs.”

The new industrial complex, once completed, will make the Yuma area more attractive to investors and businesses involved in the billion-dollar economic trade industry with Mexico, Grijalva added.

“For a long time during this immigration debate, those communities that were at the foot, at the door of the border, were seen as liabilities. Now those standing at the foot of the border” are going to be seen by investors and businesses “as an opportunity.”