News Column

Border Zone Extension Should Boost N.M. Economy

July 16, 2013

Businesses in southern New Mexico could see up to $56 million in new spending in the next year by Mexicans, thanks to a change in border-crossing rules that took effect Friday.

Under the new rule, Mexicans with crossing cards became eligible to travel up to 55 miles into New Mexico, up from just 25 miles previously, without obtaining any additional permission from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The border zone extension means card-holding Mexicans can now visit Las Cruces, Deming and other places that were off limits before, potentially stimulating commerce, trade and tourism activity in the region, according to New Mexico State University's Arrowhead Center, which analyzed the economic impact.

Arrowhead projects between $28 million to $56 million in new spending by Mexicans annually -- and 170 to 340 new jobs.

"It will have small but positive impacts on the region," said NMSU economist Jim Peach. "We project an increase in both retail and wholesale activity, as well as spending at hotels, restaurants and the like."

If New Mexico aggressively markets the state's attractions to Mexican travelers, the impact over time could rise a lot more.

"The best guidance for what could happen is Arizona, which extended its border zone years ago and then marketed it directly in Mexico to people who would likely come to Arizona," Peach said. "It had a big impact there. We'll need a similar kind of effort to increase the impact here."

State officials already have begun promotional efforts, said Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela.

"We made the state Tourism Department aware that this initiative was coming last year. It's now actively marketing New Mexico in northern Mexico," Barela said. "I've also met multiple times with Mexican officials to make them aware of it."

Bill Allen, president and CEO of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, said local officials and businesspeople began discussing marketing efforts last December.

"We want folks to come and stay overnight, dine and shop, not just in Las Cruces, but in Mesilla as well," Allen said. "We want to take advantage of all our assets to help local businesses get some incremental business."


(c)2013 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

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Source: Copyright Albuquerque Journal (NM) 2013

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