EDINBURG, RGV – For strategic and economic development reasons, much of the focus for the City of Edinburg this legislative session was on securing funds to improve South Texas International Airport at Edinburg.

Legislators did not let the city down. The new state budget includes $3 million to assist hangar expansion.

Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia
Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia

Coupled with the introduction of customs facilities at the airport, the resurrection of Edinburg’s foreign trade zone around the airport, and the building of State Highway 68 from close to the airport on I-69 Central to the international bridges at Pharr and Donna, Mayor Richard Garcia says he expects to see much greater use of the city’s aviation facilities.

“The Governor lands his plane at our airport when he comes into town many times. DPS is now housed there. I think our big focus for the future is going to be concentrating on borderland security or homeland security and border protection at the airport, with more accommodations for our law enforcement at our airport,” Garcia said.

“There is a reason for all of this. It is because we have the highest elevation in the Valley whereas the area towards the coast, when they have bad storms, they shut down roads and there is no accessibility. We have got 281, which is the official evacuation route. Our airport is right on that route. It all just makes sense. The new highway, 68 that is coming up from the border will be coming right past our airport so it is port to port because we have the land ports at the end of 48 with all the trade crossings from Mexico.”

Gus Garcia, executive director of Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, also spoke about improvements to South Texas International Airport in his wrap-up on the 84th legislative session.

“Part of our charge is that we can facilitate and we can invest in airports and, as you know, we spent about a million dollars of EDC revenue building that million dollar customs facility, which is going to allow visitors to check in there. Visitors will no longer have to stop at another airport to get checked in. That is going to be big for the development of the area,” Gus Garcia said.

“Transportation is the lifeblood of any region so that becomes another regional location where people that want to fly here, actually check in from foreign cities, really Mexico, to invest. It also allows any oil or energy companies – and there is a lot of energy activity in northern Mexico right now – to leave and come back here. That is going to be another way of transportation to accommodate that business.”

With regard to the extra hangar space, Gus Garcia said there are a lot of possibilities. “This will open a lot of doors for us. We do have people in line waiting for hangar space. It will increase our traffic and when you increase traffic then you have more opportunities for funding from the federal government. The city was leading the charge on this and we at the EDC were right behind it carrying the cannon.”

Asked about Edinburg’s foreign trade zone, EDC director Garcia said that in recent years the designation was allowed to lie dormant. He said this is about to change. “Having a foreign trade zone and not having a customs inspection station really is not any good. Now that we have the customs facility we can reactivate our foreign trade zone. What is important about a foreign trade zone? It gives you tax exemption status for up to six months. Whenever you have products shipped in, you can store them and then you can ship them out. As look as you ship them out within six months there are no taxes. So, you can do some manufacturing in Mexico, ship it here, store it and then ship it out and pay no taxes.”

Gus Garcia said it usually takes a couple of years to put a foreign trade zone in place but he is hopeful it can be done sooner. “We already have 50,000 feet of cargo space out there. It really is going to liven up our cargo facilities and hopefully give opportunities to build more.”