Shutdown has many border businesses on edge

Federal workers to miss first paychecks

NOGALES, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Guillermo Valencia is Chairman of the Greater Nogales Port Authority, just one of two hats he wears.

His second hat is owner of Valencia International. It’s a company which works with Customs and Border Patrol to help make sure the nearly 2,000 trucks carrying cargo to and from Mexico, are on time, on schedule and legal. It keeps things flowing smoothly in what could be a slow, cumbersome and confusing process.

To make it all work, Valencia has 26 employees, which because of the shutdown, especially if it becomes a prolonged shutdown, could force him to make some hard decisions.

“If there’s no need to clear shipments,” he said. “What’s the need for me to have employees at work.”

It seems it’s a long shot that it would get to that point, but he believes the longer it goes on, the more likely it becomes.

“We, as owners of a business, are very concerned about what the future holds,” he said.

“Do I cut these people off, do I cut their hours back, do I keep them on full payroll,” he said. “Those are decisions all people have to make.”

Not yet though because, as of now, government employees are still hard at work. They work but they are not getting paid.

Produce is still being inspected by the FDA, Customs is still making certain the trucks are safe and legal, and Border Patrol is still checking those crossing the border.

“The day to day activities that impact the importation of fresh produce from testers, USDA,, FDA, their activities have not changed at the border,” said Lance Jungmeyer, the President of the Fresh Produce Association of Southern Arizona. “The inspections are occurring.”

The Fresh Produce Association represents 100 growers in Southern Arizona, who are concerned about the effects of the government shutdown, now three weeks in.

The association keeps the members appraised about “which agencies are impacted, which employee services within these agencies might be affected and the interruptions of service we might see,” he said.

But of major concern right now, is what happens when the 4,000 government employees in Southern Arizona begin to miss paychecks.

The first payday missed will be Jan. 11, 2019.

“They’re going to go to the store less often, they’re going to go to the movies less often, they’ll go to the restaurants less often," Jungmeyer said. “It’s kind of a cascading effect if this were to continue.”

Valencia agrees.

“It will definitely be a ripple effect,” he said. “People live here, they pay rent, restaurants, groceries all effect the local economy.”

To what extent and how much is hard to measure, “because we’re never been here before.”

And that has the community on edge.

“We’re concerned and we’re stressing those issues and we’re stressing over those issues,” he said. “We feel some businesses will be affected more than others.”

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