McALLEN, Texas – The staff of McAllen Economic Development Corporation are going to split in two on Feb. 8 in order to attend different functions.
While some of the team will be at McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos’ 2023 State of the City Address, others will be in Austin to visit with Japanese manufacturing companies that plan to set up plants in North America.
“February 8th, we have the State of the City event here at the (McAllen) Convention Center. We always get two tables. And I think we still have six seats that are available. So anyone who would like to attend the State of the City event, why let us know and we’ll have a ticket for you at that table,” McAllen EDC President & CEO Keith Patridge told directors, at a recent board meeting.
“The same day, February 8th, we will be splitting up because we have been invited by the Japanese Consul in Houston to attend a reception in Austin they are hosting for 30 Japanese companies that are interested in establishing operations in North America. And we have been asked to attend. Part of that is because we have, as most of you know, a pretty large presence here of Japanese companies and so they are inviting us to come up to talk with these 30 companies that they will be bringing into the area.”
Patridge said JETRO will be involved in the event in Austin. JETRO is the Japan External Trade Organization. It is a government-related group that works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world.
Among the Japanese companies that have manufacturing plants in the McAllen/Reynosa area are Panasonic, AlpsAlpine, Denso – Ten, Mikuni, GSW, Landys & Gyr (owned by Toshiba), Nidec, Wells Manufacturing (owned by NGK) and TS Tech.
McAllen EDC will also be involved in McAllen Day at the state Capitol in Austin, Patridge reported. This will be Feb. 14 thru 17. The trip is being organized by the City of McAllen and the McAllen Chamber of Commerce.
In his President’s Report, Patridge also spoke about Zoho, the software development company from India that set up an office in McAllen last year. Patridge reported the company is growing so fast it needs more office space.
“We meet with Zoho on a weekly basis just as an update. As we’ve have mentioned before, they have been hiring to the point where they have filled up the temporary space that they’re using in the (McAllen Foreign Trade) Zone. But they have no more room there,” Patridge said.
Patridge said MEDC is working with the McAllen Chamber and city officials to find an alternative building.
“They can use that (alternative building) as a temporary facility until they finish construction on their permanent facility on their 90-acre campus. They are quite happy and they’re already looking at increasing the size of their operation, because of their success so far down here,” Patridge said.
“I think that is a testament to this community. I think it’s a testament to everyone that they deal with here and all of the people that they’re working with, particularly the city.”
Patridge said the City of McAllen is doing “a phenomenal job” with Zoho.
“They are really supporting them on all of this. So it’s a team effort and everything is working very well now.”
Patridge said McAllen EDC is currently working on 28 active projects, 22 of which would be based in the U.S., one that would be based in both Mexico and the U.S., and five that would be based in Mexico.
“The projects involve an estimated 3.4 million square feet of space and about 6,700 potential jobs and capital investment of over $2.1 billion. Six of the projects are new this month. So we’re continuing to see new activity coming into the area,” Patridge said.
Of the 28, 18 are active projects that MEDC has been working on for quite some time now. He said that in the case of four of these, MEDC was not successful in contacting them this month.
Patridge said that if MEDC does not hear from a company on its active project list for one month they go into the “yellow” section of the Active Projects report. If MEDC does not hear from a company for 90 days it goes into the “red” section of the report.
“They come off of the report. It does not mean that we have stopped working with them. It just means that we’re not reporting on them anymore because they’re not active for one reason or another. And that could vary anywhere from, they’re negotiating on property deals and we aren’t involved right now or they have something internal… that they have slowed the project down or they have put it on hold for one reason. So there’s a number of reasons for that. But we do not stop working them. They are always there but they’re not listed on the report.”
Patridge added: “The companies that we’re working with are continuing to move. We have some that are very large that we’ve talked about before. We continue to move forward with those and we are hoping that we will be able to see some movement with these in this first quarter. We hopefully will be able to announce some good things.”
Patridge said McAllen EDC’s “big problem” right now is a lack of buildings.
“We have no buildings. As a matter of fact, it’s not unique for us. The whole Valley is that way and I think most of Texas is that way. And so we really need buildings. And so if you hear of anyone who wants to build buildings, let us know. Refer them to us quickly because we have projects that actually are waiting on buildings.”
Patridge said MEDC is working with one company that is fully committed to moving into the area but is waiting for a building.
“We have one that is about 100,000 square feet that Susie is working with that is committed but we don’t have a building for them. And that’s always kind of scary because you have got a commitment but no building. They could very easily shift their location if we don’t help them out soon.”
The “Susie” Patridge referred to is Susie Flores, a vice president at MEDC who handles development on the U.S. side.
McAllen EDC Chairman Mark Freeland said he would like to see a trip organized for board members to see some of the maquiladoras in Reynosa. Patridge said this would be a great idea because some board members may be surprised by the high tech sophistication of the plants, with many using robots and artificial intelligence.
“It has been 15 years, believe it or not, since we had our last one. We had a small one, kind of in the middle of the pandemic, but it was not well attended. I think we had four or five people that went with us on that one,” Patridge reported.
“What we want to do is get a bus and work with the Reynosa Index. We will work with Raul and Enrique to set up visits to those companies.”
The “Raul” Patridge referred to is Raúl Setién, the new president of Index Reynosa. The “Enrique” Patridge referred to is Enrique Castro, a board member of Index Reynosa who frequently gives the group’s monthly report to MEDC. Index Reynosa is the trade association for the maquiladora industry. Both Setién and Castro were at the MEDC board meeting.
Patridge explained the importance of the visit to the maquiladoras.
“It is primarily for all of you as a member of the MEDC board because it’s very important that you see what the other side of this equation is doing now. The technology level, it will be something that you remember,” Patridge said.
“We need to start getting that understanding of how the two sides are working together and what it means for the community. And so we will be hosting that tour. We’re looking at probably the end of February.”
Patridge said he would be inviting McAllen city commissioners and community leaders to participate.
“I think it’s important. I agree with the Chairman that we need to do it and I think the timing is good right now.”
Freeland said he would also like to see a trip organized of the McAllen Foreign Trade Zone.
“We all keep hearing about the trade zone. Until you get out there and see it, I don’t think you quite understand what the trade zone is. And that’s another tool in our tool bag to try to encourage economic development there,” Freeland said.