MCALLEN, Texas – McAllen leaders are looking at land north of the city for future industrial development, including retooling an airport, a freight rail line and a county highway loop.

Via a video presentation during McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos’ recent 2023 State of the City Address, McAllen City Commissioner Joaquin ‘J.J.’ Zamora announced the city had purchased purchased 1,288 acres of farmland northwest of its city limit boundary in readiness for projected industrial and commercial development.

Now, McAllen Economic Development Corporation is working with the City of McAllen, TxDOT, Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, and the RGV Metropolitan Planning Organization to see what the land can be turned into.

Mark E. Garcia

“It’s critical because, as you know, we’ve always been talking about how land availability has been a challenge on the south side of McAllen,” McAllen EDC Vice President Mark E. Garcia told the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, in an exclusive interview.

“As the mayor announced during the State of the City, that purchase of land that they’ve made up north, near the airfield, that’s critical to our growth. That’s going to open up a whole new opportunity for us, on the industrial side.”

The airfield in question is Moore Air Field, which is owned by the federal government and currently used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for research.

“We would like to establish a partnership whereby we can utilize that airport jointly,” Garcia said.

Garcia was quick to point out that this would be a long term project.

“We are thinking, how can we complement that airport along what we already have at McAllen International Airport? It could be just strictly cargo and/or small airplanes at the Moore site. But you combine that with the (Hidalgo County) Loop Project, up there on section three, which already has rail right of way built into it, that opens up a whole lot of new opportunities as well.”

Garcia is heavily involved in the discussions because he is heading up McAllen EDC’s new strategic plan. As part of that planning process his working group has set up a “critical infrastructure” subcommittee.

“So that’s going to be part of the subcommittee’s focus, the north side. We have always worked with what we had on the south side, but we need to start looking beyond that, and how the new loop, with the the rail infrastructure built in, can help grow our industrial base,” Garcia said.

“And so we have put together a great team with TxDOT, the RMA, the MPO to really look at what those opportunities are going to be for the future of McAllen. Again, this is 10, 15 years out, but we need to start looking at it now.”

Garcia confirmed there is no infrastructure in place as yet on the land the City of McAllen has purchased near the Moore Air Base. It was previously used for farming. 

“No infrastructure yet. That’s why we need to really look at partnering with USDA there because USDA is self-sustaining. And we’re hoping that if we can kind of partner with them and either leverage some of their infrastructure, or actually have the City of McAllen take over some of their risk, such as the water treatment and sewer treatment, it can justify the city moving more infrastructure there. The city does a great job with infrastructure. If the city took this over it would allow USDA to focus on what they do best and that is experimentation and research.”

McAllen EDC’s Strategic Plan

McAllen EDC currently has three subcommittees working on its new strategic plan, Garcia explained. The critical infrastructure committee will be the fourth, He said that part of the work involves developing medical and technology districts with the city of McAllen.

“The medical and technology districts, those are two different districts. We’re really looking at establishing boundaries and ways in which we can leverage our assets within those districts. The medical district could be anywhere from Dove Avenue to Ridge Road here on the south side. With the technology district, we have Zoho, which is going to be developing that 90 acre campus near the golf course. And then we’ve got the autonomous vehicle manufacturing company that South Texas College will be incubating, which was just announced today by David today. So, there’s a lot happening.”

The “David” Garcia was referring to is David Plummer, vice president of South Texas College. 

“When we look at STC’s main campus on the Pecan site, and the STC technology campus we have on Military Highway, the idea is just start developing that whole district and just plugging in more and more technology. It could be companies or suppliers, and possibly establishing incentives in order to get them to locate within those districts,” Garcia said.

“We are also looking to develop a site right behind this convention center that the city owns. We’ve got renderings already. We’re just trying to establish partnerships to get that started. It is going to be good. We have a lot happening.”

Asked when the new critical infrastructure committee would start its work, Garcia said:

“We had an informal meeting with a big group of stakeholders, and it actually went well. So now we’re going to formalize it and actually make it a subcommittee. So we’re hoping to have another meeting here fairly soon, but it really went well. And we kind of highlighted our strategy and our ideas. TxDOT thought it was a great strategy. So we’re hoping that works out.”