While national political rhetoric in the US often paints border issues as contentious and a potential obstacle to good working relations with Mexico, others are quick to  point out the many ways in which the communities on the US-Mexico border work together for the mutual prosperity of the two North American countries.

US-Mexico Border Region Assets

The border region hosts an amazingly diverse field of manufacturing, innovation, and transportation assets. Perhaps it is best to revisit the border issue in light of these and other assets that this multi-cultural region can offer the two countries and their inhabitants. Before the border area can be seen for all of its benefits rather than its challenges, cooperation must be achieved on a national and regional level to integrate and coordinate economic development efforts.

Mega Regions

The US-Mexico border is characterized by several sister-city pairs that partner to form five “mega-regions” with principal economic pillars such as large-scale joint production and advanced manufacturing among other activities. These five regions are:

1. The California-Baja California Border Subregion
2. The Arizona-Sonora Border Subregion
3. The Paso del Norte Subregion
4. The Coahuila-Nuevo León-Tamaulipas-Texas Border Subregion
5. The Lower Rio Grande Valley-Tamaulipas Subregion

Industry Clusters

Cluster-based approaches to regional industry require significant collaboration between the private sector, government, and educational institutions. This approach involves the promotion of specific industry groups in interdependence. US-Mexico border industry clusters are essentially geographic concentrations of various components, from interconnected companies to specialized suppliers to firms in related industries that not only compete, but also cooperate. Along the US-Mexico border, several strong industry clusters have arisen over the past few decades, and especially since the enacting of NAFTA.

There are several strategies that can be employed by state and national actors to foster further growth of industry clusters to enhance the benefits of cross-border cooperation.  Some of these may include:

  • Trade associations sharing costs
  • Creating industry-based groups/trade associations
  • Government-business collaborating  on regulation of industry
  • Creating university research centers and jointly fund research
  • Forming joint marketing by trade associations
  • Conducting joint procurement
  • Supporting focused scholarships to strengthen workforce and research/design/innovation capacity of the region

While much of the focus on US-Mexico border issues casts a negative light on the region, there are also positives that can be focused, improved and further worked on to make the border a place that serves the interests of both the United States and its neighbor to the south.