Nogales Community Development is the David up against a Goliath of economic challenges.

The non-profit has worked since the late 1990s to spur and facilitate economic activity and the community’s wellbeing. It offers services such as housing counseling, down-payment assistance, financial capability coaching, business plan development, business training and small business loans.

Its hallmark project so far is the securing of $10.5 million in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding to convert the dilapidated old Bowman Hotel into a modern home for seniors. NCD received another $2 million in seed money to build a commercial kitchen to complement its Little Mercado farmers market on Morley Avenue, as well as to buy the old Foxworth building on Court Street for NCD’s offices and for what they call the “Nogales Rural Innovation Center.”

The kitchen awaits a certificate of occupancy from the City of Nogales and the innovation center project is one of 10 proposals selected recently by the office of U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva as contenders for funding from a HUD Economic Development Initiative. NCD seeks $750,000 for refurbishing the west side of the Foxworth building, as well as the former Washington Federal Bank on the corner of Grand Avenue and Park Street that was donated to the organization by the Marcus family.

Among other functions, these innovation centers will provide local business owners and startups with needed space, equipment, workshops, mentoring and logistics to help foster success and support local job creation.

We support NCD in this effort and would even consider relocating to one of these hubs and being part of the reinvention of downtown. NCD has a proven track record of commitment and multiple successes in Nogales.

I was publisher at the NI’s sister newspaper in Douglas for a couple of years. The town is graced with the most warm and giving people. They are the fabric holding Douglas together because not much else does.

The town never recovered from the 1987 closing of the Phelps Dodge copper smelter. A much larger, more vibrant city south of the border, Agua Prieta, Sonora, is Douglas’ life support. Shoppers from Mexico account for most of Douglas’ sales-tax revenue, but the pandemic has chocked off much of that retail and downtown needs an urgent jolt of joules. There’s no doctor in the house.

If all this sounds eerily familiar, it’s because we can easily be discussing Nogales’ plight. Nogales, however, has NCD and is more favorably positioned to revive than Douglas. That’s due to its geographic location where U.S. Interstate 19 connects with Mexico Highway 15, as well as a modern commercial port of entry that last year saw $26 billion worth of international trade enter the United States at Nogales.

Despite that, poverty and high unemployment persist. We are ripe for the innovation center concept of building economic recovery by helping to create employment that’s related to supply chains and international businesses and technology as well as supporting local artists and artisans, among others.

NCD will do so through providing business loans, access to peer-to-peer and expert support, workshops, technology and business services at the Foxworth and former bank. It’s a badly needed shot in the arm to help Nogales not only survive but thrive.

(Coppola is publisher of the Nogales International. Contact him at publisher@nogalesinternational.com.)

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