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MCALLEN, RGV – Tamaulipas Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca told economic development and municipal leaders in the Rio Grande Valley on Friday that his state is very much open for business.

Cabeza de Vaca was keynote speaker at a luncheon hosted by UT-Rio Grande Valley’s Center for Border Economic Studies at the McAllen Public Library. UTRGV President Guy Bailey and UTRGV’s dean of business and entrepreneurship, Mark Kroll, were in the audience.

Much of the speech was focused on the energy industry in Tamaulipas, including oil and gas exploration and extraction in the Gulf of Mexico and the Burgos Basin, along with renewables such as wind, hydro and solar.

But he also spoke briefly about rancor at the federal level caused by President Trump’s executive order to build a border wall.

“There is no greater economic engine on the border today than the region shared by Texas and Tamaulipas,” Cabeza de Vaca said, in his opening remarks. “I bring a message from our citizens to you today: Tamaulipas, the energy state of Mexico, is wide open for business.”

Cabeza de Vaca pointed out that Texas and Tamaulipas share a common border of over 370 kilometers, while his state’s Gulf of Mexico shoreline covers over 433 kilometers. Border trade crossing land ports of entry between the two states has risen to over one billion dollars a day, the governor said proudly. Indeed, 60 percent of the commerce his country has with the United States passes through the 17 border crossing points shared by Tamaulipas and Texas. “There are many advantages for our border states to work together.”

Referencing the war of words between Presidents Trump and Peña Nieto on Twitter, Cabeza de Vaca said: “No one knows better than we do that Tamaulipas and Texas are in this together, as a region. I would like to send a message to President Trump and President Peña Nieto: come and meet here on the border, between Tamaulipas and Texas. I am sure you will find that we have much more in common than you think and that working together, with mutual respect and understanding, we can achieve more than you can imagine.”

While Trump and Peña Nieto are doing the talking, the State of Tamaulipas is getting down to business, Cabeza de Vaca said.

He then cited his state’s labor statistics. He said Tamaulipas has a working population of approximately 1.6 million people. Less than five percent are unemployed and nearly half are less than 40 years of age. Of this working population, 60.1 percent work in the private sector and of these, 30.5 are employed in heavy industry and 62 percent in commercial and service related activities.

Tamaulipas Energy Commission

Cabeza de Vaca then highlighted energy production in Tamaulipas.

“One thing we are betting on is the future is energy. Not only are we talking about oil and gas, of which we have some of the largest reserves in the world, we are implementing policies in renewables, such as wind, hydro and solar. We have a strategic position in the Gulf of Mexico that uniquely positions us, and our energy resources make us a central player in developing energy projects together,” Cabeza de Vaca said.

Mexico’s recent energy reforms have opened great opportunities for private investment in Tamaulipas, Cabeza de Vaca said. He referenced a project being implemented by Pemex and others that will likely result in billions of dollars in investment in Tamaulipas.

“We are taking energy so seriously, that my state government is launching a campaign to attract more investments and job creation than ever before. I am taking that message from Tamaulipas on the road. In fact, I will give the keynote address at the National Association of Petroleum Engineers Summit in Houston on Feb. 15,” Cabeza de Vaca said.

“One of the key elements we are implementing includes the creation of the new Tamaulipas Energy Commission. This new commission will help businesses and investors get acclimated to Tamaulipas and offer a helping hand whenever it is needed. The Commission will also guide the planning of energy projects that will in turn enable businesses to invest in the region, setting up offices and creating high paying jobs.”

Cabeza de Vaca then referenced a major oil and gas project already underway.

“Mexico’s energy reform has already gelled a contract between Pemex and BHP Billiton, with a very large prospect that represents more than 1,045 billion barrels of crude oil, an estimated more than 11 billion dollars in economic investment over the next 35 years, yielding the production of 120,000 barrels of oil every day.”

Offshore, Cabeza de Vaca referenced the Cinturón Plegado Perdido, zone in the Gulf of Mexico. He said companies like China Offshore Oil Corporation, Chevron, Total, BP, Exxon Mobil and Pemex will be operating there for the next 35 years.

On land, Cabeza de Vaca referenced 13 oil fields in the Burgos Basin, just south of Texas. He said the Tamaulipas Energy Commission “will conduct research on surface exploration that will directly impact our ability to have more information that in turn will affect the discovery of additional resources throughout the state.”

With regard to renewable energy, Cabeza de Vaca pointed out that Tamaulipas has the second greatest wind energy potential in Mexico. “Right now, we have two windmill parks in operation and two more that are scheduled for integration next month. Five more are under development and there are 15 waiting for final approval to start developing. These 24 parks will represent a total capacity of 2,600 megawatts of clean energy for the state of Tamaulipas.”

Last but not least, Cabeza de Vaca said, is the Port of Matamoros. He said this perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the Gulf. “This port is strategically located 80 kilometers south of Matamoros. It can serve the states of Texas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, San Luis Potosí, and Veracruz. We intend to support it to promote the commercial and industrial operations and consumer business sectors within a 500-kilometers area. This will represent an important resource for oil companies that will conduct exploration and the extraction of hydrocarbons in the Cinturón Plegado Perdido region.”

Cabeza de Vaca then repeated his opening remarks.

“As you can see, your neighbor to the south is open for business. We stand ready to work with Texas and the rest of North America in offering companies opportunities in this vibrant region.”

Cabeza de Vaca finished his speech by echoing what many Valley leaders say about the region. “We see ourselves as a region. Tamaulipas and Texas have a special place in all of our hearts. This is because we are not only neighbors, we are not only friends, we are allies, we are partners, but mostly important, we are family. That makes a big difference,” he said.

“Thank for investing in our region, we are only just beginning.”

Editor’s Note: Reporter Stephanie Jara contributed to this story from McAllen, Texas.