NOGALES, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A series of bank closures along the border this past year continues to put a strain on local businesses, even on Small Business Saturday.
In Nogales, the issue continues to draw attention.
Bruce Bracker, a member of the Downtown Merchants Association and owner of Bracker's Department Store in the heart of downtown Nogales, said the lack of banking options in the city means trouble for the local economy.
"People from Mexico were coming in over to do transactions in those banks," Bracker said. "They're doing transactions in those banks and then they were coming into the stores to shop."
Nogales is commonly linked to drug and human trafficking and the concern of money laundering is prevalent.
According to CEO and president of the Nogales-Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce Olivia Ainza-Kramer, big banks like Chase, Banamex and Bank of America have closed several branches along the border. And Bracker said the issue still hasn't been resolved.
"The banks were being fined and were afraid of being fined by the federal government if they were caught laundering money," Bracker said.
Bracker, along with other business owners, said with fewer banking options means fewer shoppers, both locally and those coming in from Mexico.
"They're the backbones of your community and the local economies," said Alexis Kramer, PR and social media coordinator for NSCCC, who visited about 30 local businesses across Santa Cruz county promoting Small Business Saturday.
But Bracker said there has been some help. He said local groups like Nogales Community Development have began assisting with small business loan lending, and 1st Bank of Yuma recently opened a full service branch in Nogales after having a lending office there for quite some time.
Though the city is getting assistance, Bracker believes Nogales needs more.
"It's very difficult for people trying to start small business on the border," Bracker said. "What this community needs, with the produce warehouses and where they were really affecting, those aren't small loans. You really need the large banks to underwrite them. As they leave the community it makes it very difficult for that industry."
According to the NSCCC, one of their strategies to help small businesses is a recent partnership with American Express and Google aimed at providing resources and assistance to help small businesses grow.
"We are excited to be partnering with Google to help our local small business community make their way to a stronger online social media presence," Ainza said.
The chamber even hosted a workshop in October for Nogales small business owners called Let's Put Our Cities On The Map and featured lessons on how to put their businesses online and social media management.
According to an article posted in the Nogales International newspaper, the Arizona Bankers Association said bank closures are being seen throughout the country in response to concerns not only about money-laundering regulations but market conditions as well.