Time for us to beat our drum again.

We tell everyone polite enough to tolerate our bleating that an inland port should be located in the Willcox area.

We’ve made the pitch to U.S. senators and representatives, members of the state Legislature, and even the governor, though we’re certain he didn’t actually hear us because he kept looking past us while we talked, trying to silently convey to his aides to come up with an excuse to get him away from us.

We bring this up again because county officials are finally starting to come around . . . though they aren’t necessarily looking at Willcox exclusively.

Recently, Supervisors Peggy Judd and Ann English toured Bisbee Douglas International Airport to see how it can be tied into the proposed expansion of the Douglas Port of Entry. The county is considering improving the airport as a means of economic development — envisioning warehousing and trucking operating from the airport’s currently unused space.

In conjunction, the county is targeting the Willcox area for rail support — trucking materials up from Douglas/Bisbee to be loaded onto railcars and delivered throughout the Southwest.

According to Sierra Vista Herald/Review, the county isn’t willing to toss a ton of money into the improvements; instead, county officials are looking to develop public-private partnerships with investment from the private sector.

We’re glad to hear that county officials are being cautious when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars. However, when it comes to investment of public funds, we once again put forward Willcox as the optimal choice.

Not only does Willcox have access to rail, it’s on a major interstate that connects the entire South, running from Florida to California. From a trucking standpoint, there are few better locations to be than in Willcox.

Willcox faces the same problem as Bisbee/Douglas, as there needs to be significant improvement to the airpark, as well as airport operations and infrastructure. Cochise Airport is currently classified as general aviation, serving an estimated 13,000 flights per year (based on the airport’s master plan completed in 2015) and cannot currently serve commercial aviation.

Willcox’s rail spur can also assist the Port of Los Angeles, which is perpetually backlogged with items being shipped from overseas. Rather than cargo being inspected in Long Beach, Calif., it can immediately be placed on a train and delivered to Willcox, where Customs inspection can take place. From there, the items can be shipped anywhere in the nation, getting items to market faster.

We’re glad county officials are talking a long-term look at economic development, exploiting the assets — Cochise County’s proximity to Arizona’s biggest trading partner, Mexico — to diversify the economy and create good-paying jobs.

We believe Willcox is the best location for that economic development, and hope elected officials and county staff can see the benefits of concentrating on this area.


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