State governors from Arizona, New Mexico seek stronger economic ties with Taiwan

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FILE - This combo images shows New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, left, and Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, right. Trade missions took Lujan Grisham and counterpart Hobbs to the self-governing island of Taiwan that China would like to see reunited with the mainland. (AP Photo, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. – Governors from the Southwestern United States are pursuing stronger business ties with Taiwan in hopes of attracting new foreign investments and jobs to their landlocked states.

Trade missions this week have taken New Mexico. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Arizona counterpart Katie Hobbs, both Democrats, to the self-governing island of Taiwan. Both women spoke at a business conference in Taipei joining U.S. and Taiwan leaders.

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A parts supplier to electric vehicle manufacturers including Tesla announced Wednesday that it would invest nearly $100 million to build a plant that employs 350 people at an industrial park in southern New Mexico near the U.S. border with Mexico.

Hota Industrial Manufacturing Chairman David Shen said the company's decision to build in New Mexico was motivated by relatively low costs for labor and land, proximity to the U.S. auto supply chain and the unlikelihood of natural disasters related to weather and geology,

In a remote news conference from Taiwan, Lujan Grisham described an affinity with the company on a range of issues, including electric vehicles, subsidized child care and programs with tuition-free college.

“They really like our investments and they really appreciate our strategy, not the least of which is child care and college," she said. "They want that workforce.”

Public incentives played a role too. Lujan Grisham said the state is providing $3 million under a program that offsets infrastructure costs for businesses that expand to New Mexico. Hota may qualify for a roughly 5% state tax credit against manufacturing equipment and could forgo local property taxes in cooperation with the city of Anthony through tax-free debt obligations known as industrial revenue bonds.

Hobbs, meanwhile, met with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday during the U.S. Business Day investment forum in Taipei. The yearly event fosters conversations between U.S. and Taiwan officials about investment and trade growth.

“Arizona is entering a new era of economic growth, and our partnership with Taiwan is critical to creating good-paying jobs,” Hobbs said in a statement Wednesday.

Hobbs said her goal was to encourage ongoing investments to make Arizona a hub for semiconductor manufacturing. She met Monday with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. executives and suppliers, visiting their plant as well as water treatment facilities.

Arizona leaders have been touting that the state will be the home of a Taiwanese microchip manufacturer’s first U.S. plant, generating 12,000 construction jobs.

Construction started in 2021 on that sprawling facility that will utilize precision trademark technology for semiconductor fabrication with the capacity to produce 20,000 wafers per month. Once completed and operational next year, the plant is estimated to create 4,500 high-tech jobs.

Democratic President Joe Biden visited the site in December, praising it as a demonstration of how his policies are fostering job growth. Biden has staked his legacy in large part on major investments in technology and infrastructure that were approved by Congress along bipartisan lines.

At the same forum Tuesday, Lujan Grisham spoke in hopes of attracting more Taiwanese companies in New Mexico. The label printing business Cymmetrik and wire manufacturer Admiral Cable – both already have facilities at Santa Teresa, New Mexico, near a port of entry for freight between the U.S. and Mexico.

“Strengthening our relationships here is good for New Mexico, good for America, and good for Taiwan as we develop a global economy with a more stable and resilient supply chain," Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

Beijing wants to reunite the mainland with the self-governing island of Taiwan, a goal that raises the prospect of armed conflict.

At the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Biden described U.S. partnerships around the globe aimed at creating economic, security and other advancements, even as he stressed that those relationships were not about “containing any country” — a clear reference to Beijing.

Several other governors — Democratic and Republican — have recently traveled on trade missions to Taiwan. Democrat Gretchen Whitmer became the first serving governor of Michigan to visit Taiwan, during an investments-related tour this month that included stops in Japan. Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb traveled to Taiwan in August on a separate trade mission.

In August, Singapore-based Maxeon Solar Technologies announced plans to build a major solar panel manufacturing plant in Albuquerque, New Mexico, pending approval of a loan application with the U.S. Department of Energy.

The factory would employ about 1,800 people to provide photovoltaic solar panels for use in residential, commercial and utility-scale solar arrays.

Hobbs’ trade mission includes a visit to South Korea.

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Tang reported from Phoenix.