MCALLEN, RGV – Business is booming in Reynosa and maquila plant managers are struggling to find enough workers.

This was the message maquila industry leaders gave to McAllen Economic Development Corporation at a board meeting last week. The headcount for maquila employees is now up to 115,000, according to INDEX Reynosa, the leading trade association for the industry.

“Business is booming in Reynosa. If you want to be a part of it and you want a good job with benefits and have a future, now is the time to come and visit the RGV, Reynosa and the McAllen area. Good things are happening,” said Mike Myers, a board member of INDEX Reynosa.

The shortage of workers has led INDEX Reynosa to start working with the State of Tamaulipas and the City of Reynosa in promoting job fairs.

“The numbers you hear from Keith and Ralph and Janie, are correct. All the good stuff is happening. But, it is making our jobs, the plant managers, a little harder. Before, when we would hang a sign out there, we would have 30, 40, people to choose from. We would have the pick of the litter. It is not so easy anymore.”

The MEDC staff Myers referenced are Keith Patridge, president of McAllen EDC, Ralph Garcia, MEDC vice president for Mexico Business Recruitment, and Janie Cavazos, MEDC vice president of U.S. Business Recruitment.

Myers said a shortage of workers in Reynosa is keeping maquila plant managers on their “A” game.

“With new companies coming in, it makes the older companies stronger, more competitive. The labor market is definitely a thing we need to focus on in the future. We are working with the state governments and our national associations to find new ways of attracting new employees to the region.”

Myers said the maquila industry is also being helped by the fact that security is improving. “Security is definitely improving. There was a light switch that turned off eight years ago and that dimmer switch is coming back on. Every day it is a little bit brighter. You see the federales, the police and the marines over there and there is law and order on the streets of Reynosa now. Now we have just got to get the word out so we can get all those folks that left back to work, those that went to Veracruz or the Bajio, or wherever they went to. We need to get them back in. Let them know the dimmer switch is coming back on.”

The Bajio region in Central Mexico includes Guanajuato and Queretaro.

The message Myers gave MEDC echoed that given by Martha Ramos Morales, director of INDEX Reynosa, in a recent report to INDEX members.

According to figures released by the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics (INEGI), Ramos said, the number of jobs in the maquiladora industry increased by 3,343 in one month, reaching a new record.

The number of direct jobs in the maquiladora industry since April have been of 105,204 jobs, while the previous month was just under 102,000.

These figures reflect the growth of maquiladora companies established in the city, according to Ramos.

“These numbers represent a new record for the industry since the global economic problems that were experienced in 2008, which were mainly here in the city where we lost more than 30,000 jobs, at a time where only 100,000 positions were available,” Ramos wrote.

According to data compiled by INEGI, in Tamaulipas there is record of 213,000 jobs in 512 maquiladoras, an increase of just over 4,000 new jobs compared to the previous month.

According to the figures, from March to April, Reynosa has contributed to about 90 percent of new jobs for IMMEX companies in the state of Tamaulipas.

“The data we have is that at least 60 companies continue with their plans for expansion in the coming months, so we’ll see these numbers increase in the next official reports,” Ramos added. She said it is estimated that by the end 2016 the number of jobs in the industry could be close to 115,000.

Alex Avila, president of INDEX Reynosa, told MEDC that the maquila industry is growing really fast.

“A lot of good things are happening to the area. We are seeing a lot of companies from Germany, a lot of companies from Italy, and from the Asian Pacific. This wave is moving fast, faster than we anticipated. We are actually changing a lot of things in Mexico,” Avila reported.

“We have 16 percent growth, with companies from Asia Pacific and Europe coming to this area. You are talking about the Texas border all the way to the Bajio. All this growth has enabled us to help the city open Anzalduas Bridge. We are working to get our bridges operating faster. Right now we know the economy is growing really fast,” Avila reported.

Like Myers, Avila said INDEX is working with the state government and the federal government to make sure security is strong. “Security has improved the last two years. We are working on a new corridor from the Bajio to McAllen and Pharr. Pharr, Anzalduas, these are the bridges we are going to use. We are working with CBP in Washington, on a global level, INDEX nationally, the presidents of Mexico and the U.S. to recognize that industrial maquiladoras are the engine of the economy.”

Also like Myers, Avila said there is a shortage of labor.

“We are talking to the government about providing free housing for the people so we can move people from other areas. Every year we are short 400,000 nationally. We are working with Keith to see how we can interact with UTRGV and other universities around here. We are talking to the technical university in Monterrey and other universities to see if we can put some sort of educational system together,” Avila said.

“People talk about the border being closed. Actually, it needs to be open even more because the economic growth is fantastic,” Avila added.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Alejandro ‘Alex’ Avila, president of INDEX Reynosa, and Keith Patridge, president & CEO of McAllen Economic Development Corporation.

Editor’s Note: The above story is the first in a two-part series about economic development in the McAllen-Reynosa area. Part Two will be published on Wednesday, September 20, 2016.