Nogales in search of new economic direction following pandemic and border policies

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva was in Nogales to present a check for $750,000 to Nogales Community Development, an organization that tries to jump-start business development and the innovation in its city center.

Nogales has been hit hard economically in recent years by hostile border politics followed by the pandemic.

A once vibrant town center buoyed by cross-border trade has essentially dried up and business along a once-bustling Morley Avenue has slowed to a trickle.

“I saw that the stores, some only now, were closed, but they had removed everything, all the merchandise,” said the mayor of Nogales, Art Garino. “These are the ones I feared wouldn’t come back.”

Downtown Nogales is one of the poorest areas in the state that relies on customers from Sonora to cross the border to get their groceries.

But now, rather than completely relying on cross-border trade, the city is looking to become more independent.

“Investing in the life, the businesses, the culture, the art, the history of this unique and special place,” Grijalva said. “The frontier lands, of which Nogales is an intimate part.”

The money will go to an organization that has been working for years trying to attract businesses and industries to the city center with little success, Nogales Community Development.

“So I think it’s a turning point, a community reinventing itself,” said former NCD chief executive Yvonne Delgadillo. “So it’s great to be a part of it.”

The charity will use the dollars to build a section of a once-abandoned warehouse for commercial development and an economic incubator, where people can pitch and work on ideas for downtown revitalization.

“We sent letters from my office to attract businesses to Nogales.” said Mayor Garino. “We haven’t caught anyone with a hook yet, but hopefully we can.”

The hope is that the city can revitalize its downtown to the point where it can better absorb unexpected issues created by Washington politicians or things like the pandemic and not rely solely on cross-border commerce.

“This place will never be as safe as we believe it is unless you have a vibrant economy where families are safe and the economy is doing well and people are working,” Grijalva said. “And it’s a drop, a drop in that direction.”

But for the folks here, the $750,000 is a pretty big drop.

Copyright 2022 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.

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