WESLACO, RGV – Following success in landing a $1.5 billion steel mill, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez says Rio Grande Valley leaders should be ready for other big economic development opportunities.

The Port of Brownsville announced last week that Arkansas-based Big River Steel has signed an option agreement to lease 800 acres at the port for a major steel manufacturing plant. The project would bring 500 well-paid jobs.

Big River Steel has started operations at its Osceola, Arkansas, steel mill. It has an option agreement on 800 acres at the Port of Brownsville.

In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian at the offices of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, Mayor Martinez said Valley leaders should keep their eyes open for other big economic development projects. He also lauded the Port of Brownsville as a “gold mine” for the region.

“I am excited because the opportunities that these kind of efforts bring forth, not only in terms of good jobs, but also our ability to grow the Valley, to grow the manufacturing sector, which has been lacking for a long time down here,” Martinez said.

“You have a gold mine in the port and it just needs to be properly pursued, in the sense that our moment in time has arrived, we have a lot of great opportunities for young people, education-wise, employment-wise, and I think we all need to keep our eyes wide open and our ears wide open and see how we best benefit from this moment in time.”

Martinez noted that the Valley gets used as a political punchbag at national level. However, he said these are actually great times that ought to be embraced by the people of the region.

“Regardless of what is going on in the world of politics in Washington or Austin, you know, quite frankly the Rio Grande Valley is prepared and experiencing a moment in time that we better really embrace and go forward with, so we can tell our young people, when the opportunity arose we grabbed it. Be ready, opportunity knocks once, temptation often.”

As the Rio Grande Guardian reported on April 25, the prospect of a $1.5 billion, LEED-certified steel manufacturing plant coming to the Port of Brownsville has moved a significant step closer.

The Brownsville Navigation District Board of Commissioners – the governing body for the Port of Brownsville – voted unanimously to sign an option agreement to lease approximately 800 acres adjacent to State Highway 48 and the Brownsville Ship Channel to Big River Steel, LLC.

The agreement allows the Osceola, Arkansas, based-company to do due diligence wok on the land, in preparation for a high-tech steel manufacturing plant, storage and distribution facility. The operation is expected to produce 500 full-time jobs. Around 1,500 workers would be hired to construct the plant.