Due to its proximity to the international border, Santa Cruz County (especially Nogales), thrives on tourism, international trade, manufacturing, and services. An Enterprise Zone community, Nogales boasts a 200 year history of entrepreneurship, mercantilism and international trade.
Today, international commerce is of vital importance to the Nogales economy. Mexican shoppers crossing the border on a daily basis generate over 60% of Nogales’ sales tax. Nogales, Arizona and its sister city, Nogales, Sonora, are home to one of the largest cooperative manufacturing (maquiladora) clusters and the largest port of entry for Mexican produce—over four billion pounds of fruits and vegetables enter through the Mariposa Port on an annual basis.
To learn more about Nogales, Arizona’s industry, visit the Nogales Economic Development Foundation website.
In 2004, retail trade accounted for countywide sales totaling $14,776,121. Nogales, Arizona is a prime destination for tourists, including Mexican shoppers, and an estimated 47% of Santa Cruz County’s annual sales tax revenue is contributed by south-of-the-border Mexicans who travel here to do their regular shopping. In addition to mass retailers such as WalMart and The Home Depot, Nogales has a wealth of smaller specialty shops, galleries, and boutiques that contribute greatly to its commercial economic base. Nogales Main Street, a widely celebrated commerce section of the city, has a unique culture all its own—a weave of Asian, European, Mexican, Middle Eastern and Black influences.
Hands-down, the largest private sector employer in Santa Cruz County is the produce industry. In Nogales, the fresh produce industry is part of a unique trans-border agricultural production complex that links growers in Mexico with shippers on the Arizona side within a complex network of elaborate organizational structures including financing, growing, picking, packing, selling, warehousing, and truck loading. During the winter season (from November through March/April), approximately 136,000 trucks arrive from Mexico hauling produce to about 70 Nogales-based warehouses, and nearly 200,000 U.S. trucks come to warehouses to pick up the produce for distribution to markets throughout the United States and Canada. Incredibly, Nogales is the gateway for 50% of all fresh fruits and vegetables shipped into the United States from Mexico.
To learn more about the Ambos Nogales produce industry, visit the Nogales Economic Development Foundation website.
Located just one hour from Tucson International Airport, Santa Cruz County enjoy a steady stream of traffic from heritage- and nature-travelers seeking wide open spaces and exotic birding opportunities. Birdwatching is the number-one tourism attraction in Santa Cruz County. Home to approximately 400 bird species, Santa Cruz County attracts birdwatcher through both its diversity of species and its abundance of bird-sighting locations. In fact, birdwatching has become bigger than golf—its second biggest tourist attraction—in terms of the tourism-related and economic impact in Southern Arizona. In addition to birding, golfing, and nature hiking, Nogales boasts world-class shopping opportunities on Morley Avenue and in Nogales Sonora.
Nogales ports of entry are Arizona’s largest gateway for international trade with over 309,000 trucks, 3.9 million pedestrians, 10,320 busses and approximately 2.66 million cars with 6.7 million car passengers per year. Arizona State University Researchers forecast this volume to double by 2025.
In Santa Cruz County, the Nogales US Customs Brokers Association plays a vital role as the liaison between US Customs and the private broker’s businesses, disseminating the latest regulations and requirements. After 9/11, the need for accurate information is even greater, with tightened responsibility falling on transportation companies. The Nogales US Customs Brokers Association has approximately 16 member-businesses that primarily deal with the logistics of moving goods across the border for the Produce and Maquiladora industries.
To learn more about the Nogales transportation and brokerage houses, visit the Nogales Customs Broker Association website.
Historically, the maquiladora sector in Sonora and other Mexican states has been the major driving force behind the increasing trade flows in the Nogales area. In 2001, the maquiladora sector accounted for almost 50% of total exports and 60% of non-oil exports. The production in maquiladoras is concentrated in three main branches: electrical and electronic (29.2%); construction, reconstruction and assembly of transportation equipment (18%); and apparel and other garment products (15.8%). The composition of exports to through the Nogales District in 2000—the last year of strong maquiladora growth before it was affected by the economic recession—was largely dominated by machinery, equipment, and components. In 2008, Sonora was home to 104 maquiladoras with over 34,000 employees.
To learn more about the Ambos Nogales “maquiladora-based” advanced manufacturing industry, visit the Nogales Economic Development Foundation website.