MCALLEN, RGV – If the federal government would only count the four-county Rio Grande Valley as one Metropolitan Statistical Area it would break into the Top 50 MSAs in the country.

Being in the Top 50 is a “big thing” for corporations looking at setting up new facilities in a region, says Mike Blum, partner and managing broker of NAI Rio Grande Valley.

Mike Blum

Blum wrote to the Rio Grande Guardian about the latest population estimates issued by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Currently the Valley has two MSAs – McAllen-Edinburg-Mission and Brownsville-Harlingen. For the estimates for 2018, the McAllen metro area ranked 65th in the nation, while the Brownsville metro area ranked 127th. By combining these two MSAs and adding Starr County, a Valley-wide MSA would be the 43rd largest metro area in the country.

Blum said: “April 2020 marks the beginning of the once every ten-year Census of population of the United States. Every person counts and the data that results from the census is used by federal government to define political jurisdictions and apportion federal tax dollars among the states and localities throughout the U.S.”

Blum said the apportionment of federal tax dollars was particularly important the Valley.

“In the Rio Grande Valley federal dollars come to us for many purposes, including judicial, armed services, intelligence services, transportation, healthcare, safety nets, law enforcement, border protection, education, housing, and many other government functions,” Blum said. “It is estimated that the Rio Grande Valley receives $1,600 per person per year in federal funds. Therefore, every person counts, not only as a human, but as a way of calculating federal dollars into our economy and making certain that we are fairly represented in Austin and Washington.”

Blum said the Valley’s voice matters. “If we don’t count right, our voices are muted or not heard at all.”

The last census occurred in 2010, but every year since the Census Bureau has published annual estimates. The 2018 estimates have just been released and the table below show the results of eight years of growth in the region.

RankMetropolitan Statistical Area2018 Estimate2010 Census
65McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX MSA 865,939 774,769
127Brownsville-Harlingen, TX MSA (includes Raymondville) 423,908 406,220

Starr County 67,425 61,145
43Rio Grande Valley Combined MSA1,357,2721,242,134

The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA has grown 11.77 percent since the 2010 Census, while the Brownsville-Harlingen MSA has grown 4.35 percent.

“Put simply, the RGV, as a combined MSA, ranks 43rd among 383 Metropolitan Statistical areas in the U.S. which changes the perception of how important the Rio Grande Valley is to the state and nation. Being in the top 50 MSAs is a big thing among corporate decision makers, federal funders, and state policy makers and should be important to all of us. It’s who we are,” Blum said.

Blum pointed out that regional efforts are now underway to improve the count for the 2020 Census by making certain that addresses which did not exist in 2010 and beyond are wedded with new data.

“The regional goal is to increase the Rio Grande Valley population count by as much as 200,000 above the current estimates,” Blum said. “At $1,600 per person per year, this equates to $320 million in annual revenue to Rio Grande Valley communities and over $3.2 billion over ten years. The numbers matter and everybody counts. It’s monumentally important that we do our very best to make certain that everyone is counted.”

Asked about efforts by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, Blum said: “If the the court rules the question is legal we all see a significant undercount looming. It will hard to imagine how folks who are already afraid of the government’s motives…voting rights…when everyone knows that’s bogus. Recent unveiling of the actual motives will be lost for decades until there is a change in leadership.”

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said the recent estimate for Hidalgo County in 2020 is 1,006,000.

“We need to report that one does not have to answer every question and that the law prohibits any other governmental agency from having access to the information.”