I appreciate the friendship of Joaquin and I appreciate all of his endeavors in trying to make our area special. Things don’t happen by themselves, they happen, always, with proper leadership. 

One of the reasons you are here is you want your businesses to grow and prosper. Businesses, like individuals, are subject to the environment. A good business environment produces good businesses. A bad business environment produces not so good businesses. So, what do we have here on the Texas-Mexico border, in Hidalgo County? We have an area that has five international bridges yet only one is open for full commercial traffic. We also are the only area in the whole of the United States that does not have a federal interstate highway for our commercial carriers to use. Both of these situations do not help us to be the best we can. 

Yes, we have billions of dollars of imports and exports that cross our border every year. And we know from everyone here that supply chains drive our cross-border business. Not being an expert I wanted to do a little research in preparing for my short presentation for you tonight. And this is what I found out. I found out that supply chains are critical to our national security. Many industries, especially the food, manufacturing, climate and health industries rely heavily on supply chains. And, needless to say, so does our military. But, they are more complex, more inter-connected and global today than they were ten years ago. I think you would agree with that. And then the separation of the production process has reduced prices, thus creating more demand. 

Maquila industries. Some people complain about maquila industries taking jobs. Yet, how could we compete in manufacturing if we did not blend the cost of that production with the lower wages that other countries give us the opportunity (to use). But, productivity and income have also grown in other low-income countries that are now integrated to global supply chains, adding more players to the mix. 

This globalization of production has made supply chains more vulnerable to disruption, contributing to what today we see are some capacity issues. So, there is less ability to recover quickly from these unexpected events. The Covid 19 pandemic is not the first time that supply chains have disrupted our business. The production and distribution of goods have been frequently effected by natural disasters, cyber attacks, labor strikes, supplier bankruptcies, industrial accidents, and climate induced weather emergencies. In Texas we even have a governor, literally, stop commercial truck traffic coming in from Mexico with state safety inspections. How did you like that?

These highly publicized disruptions and production shortages have made the public painfully aware of the many steps involved in getting their product produced, transported, and placed on shelves, or on doorsteps. 

The share of the world’s trade that crosses two borders increased from 37 percent in 1970 to 50 percent in 2014. Those were the best numbers that I could get according to the Rio Bank. So, it is obvious that these (are the) facts: that the anatomy of a supply chain is shaped by a complex network of relationships. Joaquin spoke about that earlier today. 

So, one has to assume that there will be future frequent disruptions of the economy producing this continued future problem. Have I accurately described the state of your industry? 

Okay, this is going to be an interactive program and you are going to be asked a question at the end of my discussion here. Only one. So, how do we reduce risk and prepare for the always changing environment of the industry? Joaquin talked about this a little bit. 

There is no doubt that the Texas-Mexico border here in Hidalgo County offers countless opportunities. But tell me, how long can we continue to compete in this very competitive global economy by being just good? Why take the chance? Have you all read the book, Going from Good to Great, it said being good is the evil of being great. I’ll repeat, being good is the evil of great. I’ll repeat, never get happy with being good because good is the evil of great.

So how do we move from the success that you could have today to even better and prepare ourselves for the threat we know is going to happen and then if someone wants to make it better and do it better and take the business away from us… when 80 percent of the people in the United States live east of the Rockies, geographically we are very suited to be the most efficient and effective way to bring merchandise to our country. 

So, I ask you, Joaquin and others, should this be the task of CIL? Que Pasa? Si or no? Por porque no? 

But few success stories are about individuals being successful. Most success stories are about teams or partnerships being successful together. I represent government. So how can government partner with you to make this region the most efficient, effective and resilient? May I suggest that you start by fixing responsibility and picking the right leadership to lead this endeavor. If you do not fix responsibility with the right people you have a low probability of success. History has taught us that the most successful leaders have been humble, yet with a strong will. History has taught us that for organizations to be successful, one must have different levels of management. But, with the right people. 

Gather the facts. Don’t argue with them. Except them for what they are because a fact by definition is a known truth. Having the combination of the facts and the right people you now can develop a proper strategy based on what you are most passionate about. Or what you believe will be the highest probability of success and what drives your economic engine. 

To do this requires discipline. Disciplined people, thoughts and actions. And as Joaquin said, also take advantage of technology because technology is your friend. It speeds things up. 

So, where do you start? I have what I call a Column A, Column B approach. When I have an issue to address I cap my changes or I do not know where I am. Column A is what are we doing today. Column B is how can I do what I am doing today better? 

What does this all mean? I started by saying we have five bridges yet only one is a full service bridge for commercial traffic. So, what do we need to do to our bridge system? Highways. I told you we are the only that does not have an interstate highway. What do we need to do with our highway system? Our inspections, warehousing, labor. What else? The supply chain here on the Texas-Mexico border crosses two national boundaries, which means that production and distribution depends on the decisions and activities of another nation, adding uncertainty to supply. So, we need to be proactive in advocating for the right rules and regulations. 

I am here to learn from you. To find out what your needs are so we can partner between the private sector and the public sector, not to be good. I am not interested in just being good. I want to compete in the global economy and the only way we are going to compete in the global economy is by being great. 

So, my last question to you is, is that what you want? (The audience replied yes, and applauded Cortez). 

Did you learn anything from what I said? Ands this is not me saying it, it is the research that I made. It all depends on relationships. We must put those relationships together so that we can move together from good to great. Muchas gracias.

Editor’s Note: The enough remarks were made by Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez at a banquet hosted by businessman Joaquin Spamer. The event, held at the McAllen Convention Center, was held to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Spamer’s company, Commodities Integrated Logistics (CIL). 

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