BROWNSVILLE, RGV – The Port of Brownsville has added 847 jobs this year, Brownsville Navigation District Commissioner Ralph Cowen has announced.

The uptick in economic activity coincides with a report from the U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones Board to Congress which showed that Foreign Trade Zone No. 62 at the Port of Brownsville ranks second in the nation for the value of exports during 2016.

“I just got the numbers last week and we are up 847 jobs for the year. That is great. It has been a long road to get there,” said Cowen, the immediate past chairman of BND.

“We had the downturn in the world’s economy and then the downturn in oil and gas. That is when Keppel AmFELS lost business. But they will be ramping back up. They will be up to 3,000 employees again.”

Ralph Cowen

Asked how many jobs the Port of Brownsville currently has, Cowen said: “We have got about 8,000 or 9,000 direct jobs. And then the indirect, you go all the way statewide and gets up to over 100,000 that are directly or indirectly affected.”

Cowen said he was thrilled also to announce news of the report from the U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones Board.

“We got the news this morning that the federal trade zone board in their 78th annual report to the Congress of the United States has ranked us No. 2 in the nation for exports. If we still had Keppel AmFELS up and running with the offshore drilling rigs – because they are $700 million a pop- we would have been up No. 1, again,” Cowen said. “But, we are very happy to be No. 2 in the nation. That is quite an honor.”

The port’s FTZ reported more than $2.8 billion in exported goods in 2016. Additionally, FTZ No. 62 ranked 25th nationally for the value of imports totaling more than $2.5 billion. The Port of Brownsville FTZ has consistently ranked in the top five nationally since 2012, and this marks the second time in two years that it achieved the nation’s number two ranking.

Cowen pointed out that the Port of Brownsville has been No. 1 before for exports from the United States.

“We have been in the top three for the past six years. We are a trans-shipment port. The whole Valley is thriving because of our trade with Mexico. This is where most of our exports go.” Asked what commodities the Port handles, Cowen said: “Steel, oil, liquid cargo, aluminum, pig iron, scrap steel, all kinds of things.”

Cowen said he was particularly pleased to see Keppel AmFELS rebounding.

“They have re-tooled and they are now going to be making Jones Act ships. They have got a contract to build the first two of six and they will probably get all six container ships for the Hawaiian Islands. These ships will be run on LNG (liquefied natural gas) because the Hawaiian Islands are ‘green’ and they want zero emissions on the island. They know nature is a delicate balance.”

Cowen said the economic upswing at the Port of Brownsville is good for the whole region, not just Brownsville.

“We are the port of the Rio Grande Valley, not just the Port of Brownsville. Brownsville just happens to be where we are located. We are here to serve northern Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley. We are open for business. I am very happy we have good news to report.”

The Port of Brownsville issued a news release about the report from the U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones Board about the top exporting ports. The report said Dorchester County, South Carolina, and Miami-Dade County, Florida are ranked first and third, respectively.

“The Port of Brownsville has made great strides in creating a sustainable economic engine,” said John Wood, chairman of Brownsville Navigation District. “This ranking further demonstrates the value of the zone and the port’s overall role in transforming the Rio Grande Valley as a stable, reliable logistics platform for international trade.”

Texas remains the leading U.S. state for FTZ activity. In 2016, the value of shipments into zones totaled more than $610 billion. There are 195 active FTZs in the United States.

FTZ No. 62 is administered by the Port of Brownsville and includes magnet sites at FINSA Industrial Park at Los Indios, NAFTA Industrial Park in Brownsville, Brownsville-South Padre Island Air Cargo Complex, Port of Harlingen, Valley International Airport Industrial Park, as well as the Port of Brownsville. In 2013, FTZ No. 62 was approved for reorganization under the Alternative Site Framework allowing it to operate sites across Cameron County.

The 77th Annual Report of U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones Board to the Congress of the United States for 2016 is available at For more information about FTZ No. 62, visit

Accountancy Award

Meanwhile, for the sixth consecutive year, the Brownsville Navigation District has received the highest form of recognition for governmental accounting and financial reporting for its 2016 comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR).

Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC, a registered public accounting firm, audited all financial statements related to the CAFR.

The Government Finance Officers Association established the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program (CAFR Program) in 1945 to encourage and assist state and local governments to go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports that evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure and then to recognize individual governments that succeed in achieving that goal.

“The Brownsville Navigation District financial team is committed to full financial transparency, as are the BND commissioners,” said BND chairman Wood. “We commend the team on their commitment to the district’s taxpayers and congratulate them on this well-deserved recognition.”

The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) presented the award to Stephen B. Fitzgibbons, Port of Brownsville director of finance.

“I am proud to work alongside a team of professionals dedicated to the highest principles of government accounting,” said Mr. Fitzgibbons.

Memorandum of Understanding

In other Port of Brownsville news, Brownsville Navigation District Board of Commissioners signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cameron County to work together on business expansion opportunities.

“The Port of Brownsville and Cameron County have always enjoyed a cooperative working relationship when it comes to growing and strengthening the local and regional economy,” said BND Chairman Wood. “Activity at the Port of Brownsville has a $2 billion economic impact regionally, and Cameron County is working diligently to attract capital investment and industry. It makes sense that we would combine our efforts to improve the county’s economic viability.”

A 2015 economic impact study by Martin Associates, revealed activity at the port has an economic impact of $3 billion to the state of Texas.

“The Port of Brownsville is the backbone of our local economy. The economic output that is generated from activity at the port today and tomorrow, is a critical component for the future of our county and region,” said Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño.

“On behalf of the county, I am pleased that this strategic alliance and partnership is in place as we move forward together. Cameron County’s intermodal connectivity, international bridges and deep-water seaport make it a competitive and attractive region for trade and commerce.”

Cameron County Precinct 1 Commissioner Sofia Benavides said both Cameron County and the Port of Brownsville have long-term strategies for economic development. “This MOU is an opportunity for both entities to join together when appropriate to propel this area forward to attract greater economic advantages,” Benavides said.

The MOU, signed by the BND Board at its regular meeting in October, is a nonbinding agreement, but formalizes a long-standing business relationship between Cameron County and the Port of Brownsville.