MCALLEN, RGV – McAllen Economic Development Corporation is close to announcing thousands of new manufacturing jobs for the Rio Grande Valley and Reynosa.

MEDC President Keith Patridge spoke about the new projects at a recent Board meeting of his organization. He said he could not name the companies coming into the region at this stage.

“So far, we have had a busy summer. The MEDC team has been very, very, busy. We have had lot of interest from companies that are looking at both sides, both McAllen and Reynosa. I am really proud of my team. They have really done a great job, working with these companies,” Patridge told his board of directors.

“If all of the ones that we have incentives approved for, the companies negotiating leases and things, on the U.S. side come through, I think we are talking about seven companies that will create over 2,190 jobs. Those are good jobs for our community.”

There was a round of applause from the Board when Patridge made this announcement. “What is really good is that most of them are starting between $14 and $17 an hour. Going up to as high as $25 an hour.”

Patridge gave a shout out to Janie Cavazos, who handles U.S. business expansion and retention at MEDC.

“Likewise, Ralph has done a great job on the Mexico side. He is working with six companies, as far as I can recollect. Of those six, they will create somewhere around, as they mature, not on day one, we are talking about once they are developed, 7,000 jobs.”

The “Ralph” Patridge referred to is Ralph Garcia, who handles Mexico business expansion and retention at MEDC. “We have had really good activity this summer,” Patridge added.

More buildings needed

Patridge then spoke about a couple of the challenges MEDC is facing as more manufacturing companies are looking at moving into the region.

“The greatest challenge quite frankly, and I suspect Darrel will talk about it, is making sure that we have an available labor supply, No. 1. No. 2, and this is something it has been awhile since we have been concerned about, is having the buildings available. We are really running short. Janie (Cavazos) is having a real tough time, we are having a real tough time, finding available buildings for these companies, on the U.S. side. And in Mexico, we are beginning to run short on buildings,” Patridge said.

The “Darrel” Patridge referred to is Darrel Renfrow, a board member of INDEX Reynosa, the maquila trade association. Renfrow manages the Procesos Eslabonados de Manufactura maquila on the east side of Reynosa.

“The labor shortage is a growing concern,” Renfrow said, at the MEDC board meeting. “It is tough, there is a lot of competition for direct labor. People are cutting each other’s throats. We are trying to control that to some degree. But, sometimes, you have people that don’t know each other beating each other up for labor. All we can do is strategize with the state and the city. Being that we have the PAN coming in, we might have the chance to get more resources into Reynosa.”

PAN, or Partido Acción Nacional, did well in the recent state and city elections in Tamaulipas. There will soon be a PAN governor in the state and a PAN mayor in Reynosa.

As for real estate, Renfrow said: “I can speak to it personally. I just leased a facility and probably around a month later the rest of the facilities around me leased up. I am glad I pulled the trigger when I did. It is not just that. In Reynosa, you need your facilities close to the transportation hub. Now that the (industrial) parks are growing out, it is going to be more of a challenge to get people to those parks.”

In his monthly report, MEDC President Patridge also spoke about the need for confidentiality when it comes to securing new businesses for the region.

“Everything we do is confidential until the companies… we don’t commit a company until they have signed a lease or have purchased a facility or land to put a building on. Until then, we don’t commit, but we are working through… all of these companies are in negotiations or have already signed a lease. But, we can’t say anything until they tell us we can announce them. So, there is a period of time that we go through, it is good news but we cannot say anything about it.”

Other developments

In other news, Patridge said he and the MEDC recently celebrated with GE Engine Services, which has been in McAllen for 30 years. Patridge said VIPs were taken on a tour of the GE plant. “It is an interesting operation. They repair jet engines. They told us, if you look out of the airplane and see the engine, someone from McAllen has touched the components of that engine. They have 600 employees. They are doing very well.”

Patridge said a recent supplier conference held in McAllen by Japanese manufacturer Alpine, otherwise known as Alps, was a success. “There were 150 Alpine suppliers from all over the world. A lot of their designers are based here. They are now a billion-dollar company in Reynosa. It is a huge, huge, operation, with over 4,500 employees.”

Patridge also mentioned two recent news items. The first was that the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA (metropolitan statistical area) is now the fifth largest MSA in Texas, overtaking El Paso. The second was a recent projection by Texas economist Ray Perryman that the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA is going to be growing fast over the next few decades. While both news items were positive, Patridge said, “there will be challenges with infrastructure as we continue to grow.”

Indonesia and Japan

Patridge also announced that on Sept. 16-23, a group of industry and academic leaders from the region will be going to Indonesia and Japan. Among those on the tour, Patridge said, would be McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, MEDC Board Chairman Robert Lozano, Theresa Maldonado, senior vice president for research, innovation and economic development at UT-Rio Grande Valley, and former UT-Pan American dean of engineering, Miguel Gonzalez. “We will be going over there, hopefully, to build some public-private partnerships and to get our name out in the Asia marketplace,” Patridge said.

Patridge also said that a delegation from McAllen and Reynosa would be attending the Oct. 1 inauguration of Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca as governor of Tamaulipas.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows McAllen Economic Development Corporation President Keith Patridge and Procesos Eslabonados de Manufactura manager Darrel Renfrow. (Photo: RGG/Ena Capucion)