BENSON — Senator Martha McSally was in Benson Saturday afternoon where she met with members of the business community for a roundtable discussion that touched on a number of issues.

Because the crowd size was larger than expected, the event was shifted from its original venue at Zearing’s Mercantile to an outdoor area at the Benson Visitor Center.

McSally’s day-long visit in Cochise County started at the border wall construction site on Ladd Ranch, then transitioned to a door-to-door campaign in Sierra Vista before heading to the Benson event later that afternoon.

The senator touched on a wide range of economic-related topics, while answering questions.

When Benson City Councilmember Lupe Diaz praised McSally for her support of the border wall, she spoke of the wall’s importance to Cochise County while describing its construction progress as “extraordinary.”

The senator said she has visited the Ladd Ranch on a number of occasions, but on Monday, was amazed by how much the wall had progressed.

“It’s gone from this hodge-podge of no barriers, or a chain link fence to a consistent thirty foot steel, double concrete wall,” she said. “They’re also going to have lighting, a paved road and sensors. It’s a game changer.”

With construction that advances a few miles every day, McSally expects crews will have 450 miles completed sometime next year. In addition to serving as a barrier against illegal activity, McSally touched on the economic benefit the wall’s construction brings to Cochise County.

The project is providing some 400 jobs, with money being spent in communities throughout the county, she said.

On the topic of job creation, McSally spoke about the importance of finding innovative ways to shift manufacturing jobs from China back to the U.S.

“American innovation can bring manufacturing home,” she said.

The tough economic challenges that COVID has inflicted on businesses across the country is another issue McSally addressed. Noting that COVID’s impact is hitting small businesses particularly hard, she talked about legislative action designed to help protect small businesses from widespread collapse through such measures as the CARES Act and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) assistance.

Mescal Bar and Grill owner Morgan Salas expressed frustrations he experienced after being shut down twice because of the pandemic. Salas purchased his bar and grill in February, and as a new business owner, did not qualify for the PPP assistance provided to small business owners, so was hit particularly hard by state mandated closures to his business.

Along with economic discussions, McSally talked to the group about maintaining a strong military, which is something she said the former administration failed to support.

“Under Obama and Biden, they cut our military by 25 percent,” she said, adding that the military was decimated during the Obama administration. “The readiness crisis in this country was very real. It was so bad, our Army, Navy and Air Force units were not ready to deploy.”

The country’s military readiness has since turned around, McSally said, with the U.S. investing in future capabilities to address China and other threatening countries.

McSally summarized key priorities the Republican Party is fighting to protect, to include border security, supporting a strong military, economic growth, stopping socialism, keeping taxes low and making good judiciary decisions.

“We’ve confirmed 200 judges under President Trump, two Supreme Court justices, and we’re flipping appellate courts” from liberal to a conservative majority, she said.

When asked if she has concerns about mail-in voting, McSally said that, unlike some states, Arizona has a solid mail-in voting system in place.

“We have infrastructure managed at the county level and procedures that we’ve developed over time at the state legislature, and we have voter education...so we have a really good process here,” she said.

On the subject of the looting, violence and destruction in cities across the country, McSally referred to the criminal activity as a local “dereliction of duty” on the part of municipalities for failing to keep communities safe.

“If the local communities won’t do it, then the state needs to step up,” she said.

Overall reaction to McSally’s visit in Benson was overwhelmingly positive.

“I think it’s exciting that Senator McSally took the time out of her busy day to meet with Benson’s business owners,” said Chirstine O’Hara, who helped organize the event. “We’ve all gone through a lot because of COVID’s impacts, so it’s good for our business community to learn what kind of assistance is available to help them get through these difficult times.”

Benson Chamber of Commerce President Heather Floyd said she really enjoyed the format because it was a discussion among the business community, in a business forum.

“I’m really excited that she came here to talk to all of us,” Floyd said.

At the conclusion of the event, Benson Mayor Toney King urged participants to vote for McSally in the general election.

“If we don’t get Senator McSally elected, then we all lose,” he said. “Senator McSally is the hardest working person that I know, and I mean that. She’s out there working hard for all of us and for Arizona’s future.”