Pinal County’s compelling logistical plan - Tucson Local Media: Opinion

Pinal County’s compelling logistical plan

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Richard D. Brinkley

Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 4:00 am

Pinal County has a compelling logistics story to tell. First, think of Guaymas, Mexico. There are several deep-water ports on the west coast of the United States and Mexico.

The American west coast ports are at 130 percent of capacity, which means ships have to anchor and wait for a slot to unload. The Port of Guaymas is expanding its operation by dredging the seabed to further accommodate deep-water vessels. Dredging is planned for completion in 2014.

What makes the Port of Guaymas so enticing is its distance from Pinal County: only 344 miles and closer than the west coast ports. Reduced travel costs are attractive to principals shipping and receiving.

What makes Pinal County attractive to producers having their goods traveling by land, sea and air? It’s Arizona’s transportation infrastructure. Just north of Marana along side Interstate 10 is Pinal Air Park. Interstate 10 and Interstate 8 intersect just below Casa Grande. Running alongside Interstate 10 is Union Pacific railroad. Add to this mix the fact that Arizona has several Foreign Trade Zones.

There is another Interstate highway on the drawing board. At present, Interstate 11 is planned to cut around Maricopa and Phoenix and provide a new route to Las Vegas. Phoenix and Las Vegas are the only two cities with populations exceeding one million without a direct interstate connection. By the year 2035, the populations of metropolitan Phoenix and Las Vegas are expected to increase by 2.5 million and 1.5 million, respectively.

Two copper companies, Rosemont Copper and Resolution Copper, are seriously looking at Port Guaymas. Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has contracted with the Port of Guaymas to import and export container cargo. MSC is the world’s second largest container carrier. Expansion of the Port of Maricopa at Nogales is expected to be completed in the Spring of 2014.

The Phoenix-Tucson “megapolitan” area, describing two or more metropolitan areas connected by transportation, business and culture, has been nicknamed the Arizona Sun Corridor. But Tucson is not a destination. Tucson is a “pass-through.” The real corridor will be from Guaymas and other ports into Pinal County for distribution to the United States.

Union Pacific (UP) is a major asset to Pinal County and our State. In Arizona, Union Pacific has 642 miles of track, annual payroll of $108 million for 1,311 employees, in-state purchases of $68 million, and capital spending of $102 million. UP is locating its classification yard at Red Rock.

The Pinal County Office of Economic Development states the project will produce 6,276 direct jobs, 6,206 indirect jobs, produce $2.3 billion in tax revenue over 20 years and create one of the largest logistics center in the Western United States. The cumulative economic impact is estimated to be $25.6 billion. Construction of the classification yard alone will bring $300 million into Arizona.

As previously stated, Arizona Interstate Highway infrastructure provides an advantage. With an expanded Port facility at Guaymas, an enlarged and more efficient entryway in Nogales, Arizona can become the distribution center for goods arriving from Guaymas and Long Beach/Los Angeles ports.

Pinal Air Park is a “reliever airport,” that is an airport that is designated to provide relief or additional capacity to an area when the primary commercial airport has reached capacity. In 2011, Pinal Air Park was sold to a private equity firm, Relativity Capital.

Adding a functional airpark to the transportation corridor enhances the long-term capacity for moving freight quickly and by air, land and sea. One can foresee a FedEx or UPS operation out of Pinal Air Park. Already, Marana is looking to annex the airpark. Pinal County has received the go-ahead from the federal government for upgrading the runways.

Marana’s Town Council, Pinal County’s Board of Supervisors and Arizona’s government are pro-business. For Marana, Pinal County and Arizona, the future appears bright and compelling.

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