National Editor Tom Karst chatted on Feb. 20 with Jaime Chamberlain, president of Nogales, Ariz.-based J-C Distributing Inc. and chairman of the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.
3 p.m. Tom Karst: I saw your letter to the GOP candidates. That was pretty strong.
3 p.m. Jaime Chamberlain: It was a heartfelt moment and I felt like it needed to be written. We will see who responds to it. I’ve had a lot of reaction to it all over the country. I think a lot of people understand where I am coming from. It’s been a long time where we get a lot of negative publicity and I think the state is fed up with it. I know the county is and I know we are as a city.
3:01 p.m. Karst: What has been some of the reaction to the letter so far?
3:01 p.m. Chamberlain: I was very happy (about the reaction). One of the television local stations in Tucson just interviewed me this morning and the letter got picked up by the Arizona Republic. I was invited tomorrow evening to Sen. Santorum’s event in Phoenix and I’ve been invited to a dinner with Speaker Gingrich.
I don’t think they will take me up on the invitation to come down to Nogales; I don’t think they have time. I really didn’t think of doing this until about a week ago. But I think if any one of them can speak positively about trade with Mexico, speak positively about the state of Arizona and its importance to the country and if anyone can speak positively about Santa Cruz County and Nogales and my border community, I think it is a great thing.
3:01 p.m. Karst: For those who haven’t read the letter, what were you mainly trying to communicate in the letter to the GOP candidates?
3:02 p.m. Chamberlain: I’m trying to communicate with the candidates that not everything that has to do with Arizona and the Southern border has to do with immigration or violence. And that’s all we are hearing. There are so many great opportunities that many thousands of companies all over the U.S. are doing business with Mexico.
It seems to be that we are really not paying attention to the positive aspects of having such a great trade neighbor. The candidates — not only just the candidates but also most politicians — tend to think of Arizona and they think of an immigration issue and they think border violence.
That’s not true. The state of Arizona, Santa Cruz County and Nogales, Ariz. are so much more than that.
3:11 p.m. Karst: How are things different today in Nogales compared with 10 years ago and what would you like to see changed in the next few years?
3:12 p.m. Chamberlain: I’m extremely excited about this brand new port of entry at Mariposa here. I think the state of Arizona is very, very excited abut having the most modern facility on our Southern border. I believe there are many more opportunities to do business with Mexico. I hope when we go on line, we open up the port, I hope we have the amount of staff we need to staff it correctly.
Our facilities were made in the early 1970s and it was made for 300 to 400 trucks a day. We have been at 1,500 or 1,600 or 1,700 trucks a day for the last 15 or 20 years. We have outgrown our facilities. Now we are going to be ready for anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 trucks a day. We are going to become more efficient and a bigger force in the produce industry. I’m looking at things in a very positive way.