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Arizona’s business with Canada far more than just snowbird visits

PHOENIX — When discussing international business and Arizona, the default reaction is often to think about the state’s relationship with Mexico, however some are expecting 2015 to be a big year for business with Canada.

Glenn Williamson, CEO and founder of the Canada Arizona Business Council, which specializes in trade and business between Arizona and Canada, said there are three sectors of Arizona business that are poised to grow between the state and Canada this year.


First, Williamson said he expects trade to have even bigger impact on Arizona’s economy in 2015 than in previous years.

“We’re watching a continued growth in the aerospace and automotive sector and we’re hopeful that we’ll get close to $4.5 billion in bilateral trade this year,” Williamson said.

The top industry going both ways between Arizona and Canada is in aerospace manufacturing in which $216 million is brought into Arizona from Canada each year, primarily thanks to Bombardier Aerospace, a Quebec-based aircraft manufacturer that has its largest service center in Tucson, Ariz. The company even expanded that center to house more maintenance capacity in 2013.

While Arizona’s exports to Canada in aerospace manufacturing exceed $300 million per year, primarily due to Honeywell International Inc., which sends jet engines and avionics equipment for use in Bombardier’s Canadian Regional Jets.

In total, the Canada Arizona Business Council reports that roughly 132,200 Arizonan jobs are dependent on trade between Canada and Arizona. With over 300 Canadian businesses in the state, Williamson said Arizona and Canada are on the right path toward continued growth in trade during 2015.


Williamson said the second sector he expects to see growth between Arizona and Canada this year is in one of most important industries in Arizona: tourism.

Last year the nearly 896,000 Canadian tourists that came to visit Arizona spent $923 million during their visit, a severely lopsided figure when comparing the amount of cash spent in the state by Mexico tourists.

“Canada from a tourism point of view, is an absolute powerhouse with close to a billion dollars in real money being put into the state through tourism and that’s about five times more than what’s coming out of Mexico,” Williamson said.

Not only does Williamson expect to see Arizona top $1 billion in tourism revenue from Canada this year, he also said the Canada Arizona Business Council estimates that more than 1 million Canadians will come to Arizona on vacation.


Finally, Williamson said Arizona should continue to see growth in foreign direct investment from Canada here in Arizona, which is when investors in Canada pump money into owning portions of Arizona companies.

“We’re watching enormous amounts of Canadian investment in the United States and we believe that Arizona will get broader share in 2015,” he said.

Annually, Canadian foreign direct investments amount to $5.1 billion in Arizona according to the Canada Arizona Business Council and continued growth in trade and tourism helps further encourage investment in Arizona, Williamson said.

Even recent budget cuts by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey could be a blessing in disguise for relations between Arizona and Canada this year, Williamson added.

As Arizona faces serious budget shortfalls, he said the tightening the purse strings on government creates an important shift in responsibility between the public and private sectors.

“I am hopeful that the people that are in the right positions will start reaching to the private sector and start creating public-private partnerships,” he said.

Opening the doors for public-private partnerships could help private groups such as the Central Arizona Business Council and others further develop growth in trade, tourism and foreign direct investments between Canada and Arizona, as well as help create more competition and innovation in the marketplace, Williamson said.

“I think the Department of Tourism, the Department of Commerce will now reach out further and pull from the private sector more and better, stronger private partnership money,” Williamson said.

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