A hangar building along a runway that is large enough to accommodate a cargo plane for unloading or loading. A large manufacturing or warehouse building for one or two tenants.
These construction projects are tangible first steps toward the expansion of a logistics infrastructure at the highly touted SkyBridge project in East Mesa at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
Economic development officials, Mesa Mayor John Giles and business people view SkyBridge as a potential economic bonanza for Arizona and the East Valley and discussed it during a groundbreaking last week for the two buildings.
They say the new buildings add credibility to a simple concept that has proved difficult to implement.
Because of a unique partnership, SkyBridge will act as the nation’s only interior port of entry for shipments between the two countries, boosting international trade and creating an estimated 17,000 jobs.
Mexican and U.S customs officials will work together to “pre-clear’’ shipments back and forth between the two countries. A special seal is being developed by Mexico to help expedite shipments.
Once a shipment has been pre-cleared, it has the same effect as crossing the border into Mexico and can be delivered to any Mexican airport, rather than just Mexico City, adding convenience and speed.
The Uniform Cargo Processing Center will make the rest of SkyBridge, a 360-acre logistics hub, possible.
“I was optimistic before. This is the manifestation of our optimism,’’ Giles said. “The international economy has great importance to Mesa and we want to be a player here.’’
Marco Lopez, president of Intermestic Partners who is working with Mexican entrepreneur Ariel Picker on the project, said the new buildings represent the first steps in building a supply chain to handle shipments from Mesa to Mexico.
He said that last year’s government shutdown created a 45-day delay in obtaining important approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration to allow construction of facilities located next to the runway, such as the hangar building.
The manufacturing building, featured in last week’s groundbreaking, is located just outside the airport’s boundaries.
“This is fantastic. It shows the community that progress is occurring,’’ Lopez said.
Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, said that Mexico approved the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement months ago, but the matter is still pending before the U.S. Congress.
The new agreement replaces the much-maligned NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and it represents a much-needed update after 25 years.
“We are optimistic that the US-Mexico agreement is going to pass,’’ Hamer said, with trade between Arizona, Mexico and Canada already responsible for generating 228,000 jobs.
Officials project that SkyBridge, when it is fully developed, would generate 17,000 jobs at the airport.
“Mayor Giles is probably the most free-trade mayor in Arizona. He has taken the place of Mayor Stanton,’’ Hamer said, referring to former Phoenix mayor and now Congressman Greg Stanton.
He said the first two buildings at SkyBridge demonstrate confidence among the private sector that the project is more than a nice idea.
“People have great confidence. Arizona’s economy is as healthy as it’s ever been,’’ Hamer said. “It shows confidence that we will increase our trade with Mexico.’’
Jackie Orcutt, senior vice president of industrial brokerage for CBRE Inc., is optimistic that her company will be able to secure leases for the new buildings.
“We have a lot of interest. I think in Phoenix, it’s fair to say, if you build it, they will come,’’ she said.
The new building offer 140,000 square feet for shipping-related businesses. She said CBRE anticipates the manufacturing building will likely be rented by a producer of aviation equipment, but it could also become a warehouse.
She said the manufacturing building is under construction and the hangar building is scheduled to come before the Mesa City Council in November.
While both of these buildings have been approved by the FAA and take up about 8½ acres, the remaining 358 acres are the subject of an ongoing FAA impact study, Orcutt said. When that document is approved, it will free up the rest of SkyBridge for development.
“Thank you for the opportunity. We feel like it’s more than a project. We feel like it’s home,’’ Picker said. “Working inside an airport is not as easy as working outside an airport. There are many authorities involved.’’
He said SkyBridge “will be a city inside a big city. We’re talking about thousands of jobs.”