BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Greyhound Lines, Inc., a subsidiary of U.K. company FirstGroup, is to open a refurbishing and final assembly operation in Brownsville, creating more than 70 manufacturing jobs.

Greyhound Lines is the largest North American provider of intercity bus transportation, serving more than 3,800 destinations across the continent. The company also provides Greyhound Package Express and charter services.

Gilberto Salinas, interim executive director of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation (GBIC), said the project is a $7.7 million annual boon to the Brownsville region. GBIC is the economic development arm of the City of Brownsville.

Gilberto Salinas

Salinas has worked on bringing Greyhound Lines to Brownsville since 2016. He said the company will start retrofitting a 68,000-square-foot facility at the BRO Airport Business Park next month, with the hiring process for the company’s first cohort of employees, starting around the same time.

“Brownsville’s proximity to major ports of entry, our regional base of suppliers, our international logistics, a source of a manufacturing workforce and a pro-business climate were all factors in Greyhound’s decision to locate in our region,” Salinas said.

“In meeting with their corporate executives, we’ve already been discussing different ways to partner with them for initiatives in regard to developing our local human capital. We have a great potential to build on this new opportunity. They will be another great corporate citizen for Brownsville.”

In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Salinas said Greyhound will be hiring 73 people in its first three years, including mechanics, welders, fabricators, etc. He said that by year’s end, Greyhound will be infusing more than $2.2 million in capital investment in the facility.

Greyhound Lines, Inc. is an intercity bus carrier serving more than 3,800 destinations in North America. FirstGroup PLC, which owns Greyhound Lines, is headquartered in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Mike Walker, vice president of technical operations for Greyhound Lines, Inc., said the company would be redesigning, reengineering and remanufacturing outdated coach buses.

He said the plan is for Greyhound’s new facility in Brownsville to refurbish their entire fleet from the United States and part of their Mexican fleet as well.

“We’re excited about our partnership with the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation and our new refurbishing facility, as we’ll soon have a prime location to upgrade our buses as needed, in order to continue providing a safe, comfortable and reliable service for our customers,” said Walker said.

“It has been a pleasure working with the City as well on this project, and we’re looking forward to bringing new jobs to Brownsville beginning as soon as April.”

Mayor Martinez’s viewpoint

Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez met the leadership of FirstGroup when they visited his city during the final negotiations with GBIC.

“The parent company refurbishes buses and trains in Europe. Their offices are in Aberdeen in Scotland. I had a chance to visit with the group when they were down here two or three weeks ago,” Martinez said. “It is an exciting project. I think it is one of those that will grow as the Valley grows and as we do a lot more recycling, whether they be trains, buses, whatever mode of transportation.”

Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez

Martinez gave an interview to the Rio Grande Guardian ahead of a Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council meeting in Weslaco. He said he likes the type of work Greyhound Lines does.

“I think what we are finding out is the outer surface of most of these modes of transportation can be refurbished and can be utilized for a long time. We are seeing a lot of different transportation modes just like we are talking about here in Weslaco, about how we now have a lot of people using the buses and public transportation. I think we are in that kind of era.”

Martinez said he left the negotiations to bring Greyhound to Brownsville to the leadership of GBIC.

“Generally, I like to meet whoever is coming in, just to welcome them to our area, to get to know them a little bit. Quite frankly, I had a nice time with them. I do not always have time to meet with the companies being brought in but we did have an opportunity on this occasion.”

Martinez said the fact that GBIC was able to land a company of FirstGroup’s size speaks volumes for the attractiveness of the Rio Grande Valley.

“I have always said, most of these folks like to be down in the Rio Grande Valley because of our population. It is our people that makes us unique. We have great folks here in the entire Rio Grande Valley. We had that binational run in Mexico recently. The people in Matamoros are wonderful. We had a wonderful time. I tell people all the time, whether you are from Europe or wherever, come visit us. You will love us.”

Martinez added that he expects Greyhound Lines to grow in the Valley.

“I do not know exactly how many employees they will have but I suspect that, as with every company that comes down here, it starts with a small number and grows. Most of the incentives we give are tied to the amount of jobs created and most of these companies we have been visiting with have really good salaries. We have been fortunate. The people that have been trying to recruit pay a decent salary.”

The addition of Greyhound Lines adds to a rapidly growing manufacturing and refurbishing sector in Brownsville. Martinez said he would not be surprised if SpaceX added a manufacturing component in the region as it develops its rocket launching facility at Boca Chica beach.

“Deep in my heart, I think that is going to happen. We have the logistics. We have the water port, we have a spaceport, we have an airport, we are kind of like the crossroads of South America and Mexico. It is just a good place to be. I think if we mind the goldmine we can really do some good for the people and give the kids opportunities,” Martinez said.

The great thing is, attitudes about staying in the Valley is changing. I was making a presentation at Brownsville ISD a couple of weeks ago. Most of those kiddos were saying, we want to stay here – as opposed to a generation ago when they were saying, we cannot wait to get out of the Valley. That is a very good sign.”

César De León chairs GBIC and is a Brownsville city commissioner. De León said the objective of GBIC is to help create job opportunities by expanding the city’s industrial and commercial base.

César De León

“I welcome Greyhound and appreciate their confidence in choosing Brownsville for their refurbishing facility. It was the partnership between GBIC, Greyhound and other local entities which was vital in making this project a reality in our city,” De León said.

“We promise to continue being diligent in our efforts to maintain Brownsville’s status as the No. 1 city for manufacturing and investment in the Rio Grande Valley.”

Texas Southmost College President Jesus Roberto Rodriguez welcomed Greyhound Lines’ pending arrival in Brownsville. He said his college stands ready to help.

“The Greyhound Lines Inc. bus refurbishing and final assembly operation will spur the region’s economic growth,” Rodriguez predicted. “Texas Southmost College is an engine of economic development and workforce training, and works closely with local organizations such GBIC and the Texas Workforce Commission to provide a skilled workforce that will support current and potential industry of the Rio Grande Valley.”

Supply chain logistics

In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, BCIC’s Salinas said the arrival of Greyhound Lines in Brownsville is “another feather, a big feather in a hat that has quite a few feathers in it right now.”

Salinas said Greyhound was a project he started working on right before he left the Brownsville Economic Development Corporation and transitioned over the GBIC.

“It had gone cold for a few months, then once I moved over here we picked up on it. We have been at it for a good eight to ten months now. It looked like a real possibility at the turn of the year. It is a big name, it is a great front door welcome mat, especially for business travelers that fly into our airport, knowing that we are going to have a new airport terminal very soon.”

Asked why he thought Greyhound Lines chose Brownsville, Salinas said:

“Our geographic location is important – a combination of our access to the United States and Latin America, access to a deep-water port, something they will eventually be utilizing. Also, the skills set we already have with our local labor pool. Incentives are always something that are going to come into play. Plus, availability of a facility, almost ready for them to move into, and then, what I like to say is having a pro-business climate. At the end of the day, that makes a huge difference in swinging the needle on many projects, being able to demonstrate that in Brownsville, Texas, we are open for business.”

Asked if Greyhound Lines might one day refurbish trains in Brownsville, like they do in Europe, Salinas said: “We have not been privy to those discussions but they are part of the FirstGroup, out of the U.K., and they have a lot of destinations in Europe in terms of coach buses and trains. I am not sure we will be doing trains down here but one of the reasons they were interested in our area is the ability to ship from the Port of Brownsville. Knowing they are coming in from Europe, there might be some very good possibilities for us and definitely something for us to build on.”

Asked if Brownsville is becoming the Valley’s major hub for manufacturing, Salinas answered affirmatively.

“Not just the Rio Grande Valley but South Texas. It is not a coincidence, it is not an accident that we are a community that has multiple Texas Enterprise Fund awards, not specifically for this project but for some of the others. For the last ten years we have made this our main objective, to become the manufacturing authority in South Texas, and we are definitely headed in that direction.”

Asked to list other manufacturing success stories in Brownsville, Salinas said:

“CK Technologies was one of our first big wins, about seven years ago and they are going through a major expansion right now. That was followed by SATA USA, the advanced manufacturer. We had MVP Plastics, a fairly large plastics injection molding operation. Paragon Tool & Die came in by way of CK Technologies. Cardone Industries, with what they are doing in Matamoros and Harlingen, we also getting a component here which is 220 jobs in a 500,000-square foot facility. TPI Composites in Matamoros, they are currently building a one million square foot facility in Matamoros.

“Then you throw SpaceX into the mix, and they are in a league of their own. They are all independent but at the same time they are all intertwined as far as the supply chain logistics of this particular region is concerned.

“We have not even got to what Keppel AmFELS are doing with their shipbuilding at the Port of Brownsville. Then you add the possibility of a steel mill and the LNG plants. We are, for lack of a better word, busy. It is no accident. This is the culmination of our community being diligent and being at it for nearly a decade.”

Salinas added:  “It has been about a decade since we set out on a mission. Our objective was, how do we start building a foundation, so we can become the manufacturing and industrial authority in South Texas. Outside of San Antonio, and I think some of our projects compliment what they have in San Antonio… Corpus has a lot of petrochemical, Laredo has a lot of logistics. When it comes to manufacturing south of San Antonio, we are up there, we are becoming that manufacturing authority.”