Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez spoke to reporters after participating in a Despierta Brownsville event hosted by Brownsville Chamber of Commerce.
Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez spoke to reporters after participating in a Despierta Brownsville event hosted by Brownsville Chamber of Commerce.

BROWNSVILLE, RGV – The City of Brownsville is looking at building a brand new Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport next to its existing airport.

Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez said a new airport is needed because of all the new industries moving into the region.

“We are looking at developing a new airport. We are in the planning stages. We have done the studies, the environmental and inventory assessment. We realize that we need to upgrade our airport, mainly because of all the different industries that are coming in,” Martinez told the Rio Grande Guardian, in an exclusive interview at the historic Alonzo building in downtown Brownsville on Wednesday.

“Currently, we are not adequately prepared. How do we handle the luggage, how do we handle the airlines, how do we handle additional airlines, that we think are very viable for Brownsville? We have got an airport that has got a lot of acreage that is not being utilized to its maximum. Some of these companies that are coming in, some of them want to have temporary facilities. You see a lot of warehouses out there. How do we accommodate those needs in the short term and the longer term by going out to the industrial park?”

Martinez said he would like to get moving on building a new airport very soon.

“Hopefully, we are looking, in a limited way, to go ahead to get and get something started this year. One of the things we have been looking at is extending our runway. We would like to do this simultaneously but I do not think that is going to be possible. I think the most important thing right now is to decide whether to rebuild or renovate or build a new one.”

Martinez said the new airport would definitely be built next to the existing airport.

“We have so many amenities that can accommodate a new airport out there. The FAA has to approve everything so you have to go through a lot of administrative hurdles. We have done most of those things. God willing, in a very short period of time… we do not have renditions of what it is going to look like but we have all the infrastructure. That is the most important part, from an environmental standpoint and from an FAA standpoint. That needs to come first and then we will take a look at the aesthetics,” Martinez said.

“The way we would have it set up, it would be in the same location but we cannot interrupt the air service so we allow the old airport to serve until the new airport is ready to roll, on the same site. That is how we have it initially planned, but things may change.”

Martinez was at the historic Alonzo building for a Despierta Brownsville event hosted by the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce. The focus of the event was a new cross-border survey conducted by the Nielsen Group. It surveyed the consumer habits of shoppers in Matamoros and Reynosa. In interviews afterwards, Mayor Martinez spoke about plans to diversify Brownsville’s economy.

“You have to diversify your portfolio so that you have more than the Mexican economy to live on. That is what I am trying to do with Brownsville. So you have the aerospace industry, manufacturing, you have healthcare, you have tourism. So that, when one is down the other one comes up and you are not subject to what we had before, which was, oh, we are going to have a peso devaluation, here we go again. I don’t think that is smart economics,” Martinez told reporters.

“We know we are into the aerospace industry, we know we are into the healthcare industry, we know we are into the tourism industry. When you look at Houston and San Antonio, healthcare is No.1 and tourism is No. 2. For us, we need to look at the aerospace industry and monopolize it, especially after you see a success like you did on Friday (with a SpaceX rocket returning to Earth).  I think it is important to watch the needle as we are going along to see how we are doing in so many different areas. I think it will help Brownsville tremendously.”

As Brownsville’s economy diversifies, the need for a bigger and better Brownsville-South Padre International Airport becomes more apparent, Martinez told the Rio Grande Guardian. He gave a shout-out to the Brownsville Economic Development Corporation for leading the efforts in diversification.

“From what I understand, we now have potential utilization of the entire Titan building. Before it was only partially being utilized by CK Industries. I understand we are going to have full-blown occupancy of that. There are some call centers with the ability to do more and I understand those efforts are materializing. There are some companies related to the aerospace industry that I think are knocking at our door,” Martinez said.

“We have to be very vigil of the successes and the failures. Last June, we were concerned about how they (SpaceX) were going to be able to bring their rockets back down. It is a very important part of what SpaceX is all about. Now that you saw the rocket come down on Friday, you saw they got the payload over to the station. I see that as a very big indicator… if you are watching the Musk mentality, when he has got a good thing going, that guy double-quicks his step. When he has got a failure, he takes time to sit there and correct it but he does not have the patience to do it for very long. So far he has been true to what I think his mentality is.”

Elon Musk is the founder of SpaceX.

Asked to respond to claims made by some in the Rio Grande Valley that Brownsville only has a viable airport because the City of Brownsville subsidizes it heavily, Martinez said: “We have 24/7 custom service, we are really the gateway in so many ways, because we are on the coast, we have a water port. We have so many assets that really amplify the need for an airport, much more than anyone else in the Valley. I would rather have a number of small airports than one large airport that creates chaos and confusion when something is down. You talk about Chicago, you talk about Houston, you talk about Dallas, you talk about Atlanta, you talk about Newark, something goes down and it destroys a big portion of your air travel.”