SAN BENITO, RGV – Salomon Torres, executive director of San Benito Economic Development Corporation, has praised Cameron County leaders for inviting officials from Ciudad Mazatlán over to discuss international trade opportunities.

Mazatlán Mayor Carlos Eduardo Felton González will lead a high-powered delegation to the lower Valley on Sept. 26 and 27 to discuss, among other the things, an expected huge increase in imported fresh produce from Mazatlán and Sinaloa, considered the bread basket of Mexico.

An increase in fresh produce from Mexico’s west coast is expected because of the opening of what is being dubbed the Corredor Económico del Norte, a superhighway linking Mazatlán to Matamoros.

The economic development corporations of Harlingen and San Benito, along with Cameron County and the Port of Brownsville, are working on a project to boost truck traffic at Los Indios International Bridge, which has an overweight truck corridor that connects to the Port of the Brownsville.

“I want to thank the leadership of Cameron County for inviting Mayor Felton González and the other city officials from Felton Mazatlán. It is important our county prepares for the increased trade opportunities the new Mazatlán-Matamoros superhighway brings. We need to especially capitalize on the huge tonnage of fresh produce that will come through the Rio Grande Valley from Sinaloa, which is considered the bread basket of Mexico,” Torres told the Guardian.

Torres spoke about plans to expand operations at Los Indios when he gave the keynote speech to the Lower Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at a recent dinner at Los Norteños in Harlingen.

San Benito EDC Executive Director Salomon Torres displays Cameron County data showing how Los Indios International Bridge is under-utilized.
San Benito EDC Executive Director Salomon Torres displays Cameron County data showing how Los Indios International Bridge is under-utilized.

“The Los Indios International Bridge, which is known as the Lucio Blanco Bridge in Mexico, is an asset that has been underutilized by the Valley. It has been under-utilized by commercial traffic and cars for decades. It has been basically abandoned in favor bridges that are in more highly populated areas, like Los Tomates in Brownsville,” Torres told the Hispanic Chamber.

“A lot of it has to do with leadership. If the political leadership of the county and the two cities (San Benito and Harlingen) does not come together and push for the bridge to be used more it isn’t going to be used. We are now going to change that. The county, the two cities, are working together, with the Port of Brownsville and we are going to develop a strategy to market the bridge’s availability and existence for Mexican and U.S. commercial interests so that they will use it more.”

Torres told the audience that they might think the statistic he was about to read out was a typo. He said it was not. He said he got the information from Cameron County. In the last quarter, 48,664 trucks crossed Veterans Bridge, otherwise known as Los Tomates, in Brownsville. In comparison truck crossings at Los Indios was a mere 5,400.

“That is a big difference and that is something that has to be addressed. It is affecting economic development on the Mexican side. That is a big challenge we will be working on together,” Torres said.

Torres then spoke about the new Mazatlán-Matamoros superhighway. He said it crossed seven Mexican states and was one of the great engineering marvels of the world. He predicted that its construction would mean shippers taking produce from Sinaloa would use the Valley, rather than Nogales, Arizona, to cross into the United States for items destined for the Mid West and the East Coast.

“Every international port that has the means for commercial crossings will have an opportunity to tap into that trade, the produce that will be coming from Sinaloa to the East Coast of the United States. That, my friends, is a massive opportunity. It is an opportunity of a generation. If you are interested in tapping into that industry, it is just wide open. It is relevant for us if we want to stay competitive. Every community, large or small has the same opportunity to capitalize on this. Just because you are small does not mean that you cannot capitalize on this. If you are small it probably means you have land. If you have land you are becoming rarer and rarer in the Valley,” Torres said.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Raudel Garza, executive director of Harlingen EDC, confirmed that a regional approach was being taken towards the development of Los Indios. He said an umbrella group had been formed, titled the Cameron County Logistics Alliance. Garza pointed out that Los Indios has a great advantage over other land ports of entry in Cameron County, namely an overweight corridor designation. He also said that boosting infrastructure at Los Indios would be advanced by Toyoda Gosei’s decision to build a new freight terminal close to the bridge.

“Regionalism is something Harlingen has taken to heart, as evident by us contributing to the SpaceX project. We have taken that a step further by working with Cameron County and San Benito and the Port of Brownsville and a few other entities to promote Los Indios Bridge. We have also continued to work with Cameron County and the City of Brownsville and United Brownsville with the BiNed efforts,” Garza said.

“The long and short of it is that Harlingen is in cooperation with all of these other communities because we understand that together we can do a lot more than if we can do things on our own. Los Indios Bridge has a lot of potential. It is a very quick bridge to get to, north and south, the lines are short and the facilities are excellent. GSA and Customs have great docks out there.”

Garza said that “some efforts” are underway to continue to develop facilities on the Mexican side that will help with the importation of products into the United States. “On the U.S. side we continue to see a lot of activity at the Los Indios Industrial Park. We are also working with GSA and Customs to try to bring in some additional amenities that will help attract the produce sector.”

As if to emphasize their interest in securing more fresh produce from Sinaloa at the Los Indios International Bridge, both Harlingen EDC and San Benito EDC will be represented at the PMA Fresh Summit and Expo, being held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Oct. 17-19.