EDINBURG, RGV – Peter Holt, the owner of the San Antonio Spurs, says negative coverage in the media and negative comments by politicians about the Rio Grande Valley Is hurting the economy and relations with Mexico.

Holt was in Edinburg on Tuesday for the grand opening of a $10 million, 47,000-square foot full-service Holt Cat facility. Holt is CEO and chairman of Holt Cat, the largest Caterpillar dealership in the United States.

Asked what he tells his contemporaries in business about the Valley, Holt said: “I tell them they need to come to the Valley. The labor force down here is excellent and getting better.”

Asked about all the news stories of drug cartels and refugee children crossing the border, Holt said: “All of those things are true but not at the level the media plays them up to be. The politicians, unfortunately, have taken the ball and run with it. In my opinion it has damaged not only the Valley and the border areas but maybe our relationships with Mexico and that is wrong. It is just plain wrong.”

Holt Cat already has centers in Edinburg and Weslaco. Holt said the grand opening of the new service center is very special because of the company’s history in the Valley.

“My great uncle started down here in 1938 in Weslaco. Edinburg has been a great place for us. The Valley has been a great place for us. And, with the growth of the Valley it was time for us to make a stronger commitment here and build this type of facility here. So, it is great.”

Holt pointed out that the new Edinburg facility is an expansion on what Holt Cat already has in the Valley.

“This is expansion. Eventually, are going to look again at the Brownsville area. We had a store down there, a rental store, we called it. That will come next. No, we need to cover the Valley more and more, particularly with everything that is going on,” Holt said.

Holt said his company’s decision to build a large service center at the very northern end of Edinburg was based upon the Valley’s population growth and oil and gas production in Eagle Ford Shale, just north of the Valley.

“Our agriculture division will work out of here to cover the Valley and lower South Texas. And then, with Mexico increasing and continuing trade, and now with the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley and the medical school coming down here, all the changes coming to the Valley, it just pushed us to do this. We were going to do it but we realized, the sooner, the better,” Holt said.

Holt Cat has a number of service centers around the Eagle Ford Shale. Asked how important this play was to him company, Holt said: “It is a huge part of our business. Ninety five percent of all drill rigs have Caterpillar engines on them. Ninety five percent of all frack units have Caterpillar engines and transmissions on them. It is a huge part of our business and this Edinburg store being this far north will help us cover the Eagle Ford particularly.”

Holt told reporters that Holt Cat’s decision to expand in the Valley was taken before the Mexican Congress decided to open up oil and gas exploration and production to multinational companies.

“We stay close to Mexico. My great uncle actually started down there in 1925, in Mexico City. We do a lot of business in Mexico and, yes, I think this (the Valley) will be somewhat of a staging area. I just think whatever happens in northern Mexico will directly benefit, economically, the Valley.

“There is no doubt about it, whether it is population growth or oil and gas business. In Eagle Pass right now, a coal mine is going to go in there. They are permitted. It is happening and we are selling equipment to them, delivering in the first quarter of next year. So, all of these things are happening along the border.”

Asked what he thought of the energy sector reforms in Mexico, Holt said: “It is the best thing that has happened to Mexico in my opinion in a long time, economically. They needed to develop it down there. They needed it for their own population, they need it for export. They need it to strengthen and grow their economy. And, of course, it is going to benefit us. There is no doubt about it.”

Holt concluded his interview with reporters by reiterating his company’s support for the Valley.

“We have been here a long time so we consider ourselves part of the boom. We are proud of that. This is the right place to be. We go where the economy is. We tend to be a lead leader in the sense of lead economic indicator relative to growth. We are a good barometer: to build highways, to develop natural resources, to do whatever. I think with our expansion, it just shows.

“We were going to do this even before the Mexico oil and gas opened up the way it did. This is real. For a long time – we have been here since ’38 – there were periods of time in the Valley when it was not real and it is now. Per capita income is rising, population is rising, education levels are rising, the university (UT System), making the commitment they are making with the medical school and the university itself, it is just phenomenal. It is just a great place to be.”

Holt said the new Edinburg facility will hire 38 full-time workers with an expectation that this will rise to 50 within a year.

Edward Craner, senior vice president for strategy and marketing at Holt Cat, said the new store will feature a full range of offerings to serve a variety of customer needs across the construction, oil and gas and paving industries. Everything from Cat machine sales, rentals, parts and service to comprehensive rebuild capabilities and custom product fabrication.