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PHOENIX -- The head of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council is leading a delegation of Valley mayors and business leaders on a mission to Washington, D.C., next week.

Barry Broome with GPEC said the focus of the trip is immigration reform but jobs and trade are also on the menu.

Broome said there are about 65,000 Latino-owned businesses in the state, so the notion that Arizona is anti-Hispanic because of tough immigration laws like Senate Bill 1070. Broome said the support for immigration reform from senators Jeff Flake and John McCain gives the state a shot for an image makeover.

"Forty percent of our state is Latino. We're a Latino state. We've been basically a political football and it's time for us to step up."

Broome said once the immigration reform issue is put to bed, the economic opportunity involving Arizona and Mexico is limitless.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith agrees. He will join the delegation and said people are beginning to realize that the state had to enact tough immigration laws like SB 1070 because the federal government left Arizona no other choice and the economy suffered tremendously.

"It was Arizona's cry for help in many ways," he said. "It was throwing up our hands and saying we are tired of being ignored and we need something done. Our inability to fix the immigration system has cost us billions of dollars in lost trade and cost us lost opportunity."

Smith said the lack of immigration reform has been a barrier and when the issue is solved it will open up a lot of opportunities between Arizona and Mexico.

"Mexico is our biggest trading partner but the potential is still untapped. We realize the real potential we have for trade."

Avondale Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane and others will join Smith on the trip.

Jim Cross, Reporter

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